Doors open only for returning citizens and residents
Auckland, March 19, 2020 (655 pm)
In about four hours from now- at 1159 pm New Zealand Time, the country’s borders will be closed for all visitors including those on temporary visas and international students.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just announced that while New Zealand citizens and residents will be allowed to enter the country, the ban will apply to all others including temporary visas and students.
People from Pacific Island countries, who were hitherto exempt are now brought under the ban.
However, as Ms Ardern said, a small number of exemptions can be sought for humanitarian reasons, essential health workers and citizens of Samoa and Tonga who need to travel to New Zealand for essential reasons.
In a nationwide address, she said that protecting New Zealanders from COVID-19 is priority.
In recent days it has become increasingly clear that the spread of the virus in other parts of the world warranted stronger border measures in New Zealand.
No tourists either
“Today’s decision stops any tourist, or temporary visa holder such as students or temporary workers, from coming to and entering into New Zealand. The rapidly worsening global health situation means that the threat to people’s health in New Zealand has risen, even in the five days since we took the world-leading step of requiring 14 days of self-isolation for anyone entering the country. All of the cases of COVID-19 identified in New Zealand relate to people travelling to New Zealand and bringing the virus with them; therefore we need to further restrict the risk of people bringing the virus into New Zealand,” she said.
Ms Ardern said that as per the evidence thus far, returning New Zealanders understand the requirement for self-isolation.
“But I have become increasingly concerned that visitors to the country either may not be able to adequately self-isolate for 14 days or chose not to and that is an unacceptable risk that we must eliminate. It remains the case that the protection of the Pacific from COVID-19 is a major concern for the New Zealand Government and these measures support that,” she said.
“The Government understands that this decision will have a significant impact on the economy, which is why we have put in place a world-leading support package for business and will continue to work with and support all affected industries.
On a related note, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Winston Peters advised an estimated 80,000 New Zealanders currently overseas to return home immediately.
“We are concerned about your welfare. If you choose to remain overseas despite our advice, the ability of the New Zealand government to provide consular assistance may be limited due to international travel restrictions and the suspension of services,” he said.
It is not known if there would be any mercy flights to bring these people home with an increasing number of countries imposing travel bans.