New Zealand strengthens procedures to manage international arrivals

New Zealand strengthens procedures to manage international arrivals

Additional medical and defence staff at airport and facilities

Venkat Raman
Auckland, June 28, 2020

Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods and Air Commodore Darryn Webb at a media conference (Screenshot)

Housing Minister Dr Megan Woods has announced a series of measures which she said would strengthen the existing Managed Isolation and Quarantine System for New Zealanders arriving from overseas.

The move followed a review commissioned by the government about ten days ago on the face of public criticism that the procedures followed for managed isolation and quarantine were lax and inadequate.

The government was also attacked for lethargy in testing.

Dr Woods, who has been placed in additional charge of Managed Isolation and Quarantine, said that a review found that the existing system was ‘not broken but needed additional resources to respond to the increasing demands.’

Increasing Covid-19 cases

Hundreds of New Zealanders- citizens and permanent residents- have returned home on special flights during the past five weeks and hundreds more are expected in July and August. Since most of the arriving New Zealanders are from countries which have high incidence of Covid-19, the number of cases has also been rising.

As of today, there are 20 active cases. One person is in hospital.

Dr Woods said that there was no playbook for Covid-19.

“We are one of only a handful of countries in the world to require managed isolation at the border with compulsory testing, making our system one of the strictest globally. The report shows how we can strengthen the managed isolation system, reduce the room for error and continue to keep Covid-19 at the border and out of our communities,” she said.

Additional Defence, Medical staff

She said that the Health Ministry will increase the number of clinical and non-clinical staff including nurses at each facility to ensure that health checks, testing and other health services are consistently delivered to the standards required.

“This will see the introduction of a dedicated model of care to service the wide-ranging public health, physical health and mental health needs of people returning to New Zealand in the facilities. Service standards will be incorporated into a proposed regulatory framework and will be subject to review,” Dr Woods said.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb, who is leading the Defence team, said that significant changes have been introduced and work is underway to address other issues raised in the report.

As of today, there are 168 New Zealand Defence Force personnel across 21 facilities providing round-the-clock coverage. There are also more government and defence staff across the end-to-end system. This increased resourcing has had an immediate impact on the ground in terms of making sure our people are well supported to carry out their roles and ensure the safe transfer of returnees into managed isolation,” he said.

Mr Webb said that the increase in resourcing will form the backbone of further changes that are being made to ensure the system is robust and fit-for-purpose.

“We have also increased oversight of the transfer of returnees from aircraft through to Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities so that they are escorted by government staff,” he said.

List of improvements

Other improvements include (a) Increased security for transferring returnees to managed isolation facilities (b) Standardisation of procedures across all facilities (c) Introduction of better information for returnees, from flight boarding through to entry into New Zealand and their exit from Managed Isolation (d) Better information to communities where those facilities are located (e) Strengthening of demand forecasting, reporting functions and coordination between agencies.

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