News In Brief

COVID-free but maybe not for long if we open borders

Earlier this week director-general of health Dr Bloomfield returned to the spotlight to break the news that two new cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in NZ after a case-free streak of 24 consecutive days. Thus, proving fears that despite our success in “eliminating” the virus we cannot ever become complacent.

This news comes at a time when tourism operators and the Accom industry have been demanding that plans for the Trans-Tasman travel bubble are expediated. Could the fact that the COVID positive travellers recently arrived on a flight from the UK, via Brisbane further prolong plans?

Details revealed in an announcement by Dr Bloomfield that two Kiwi women arrived on June 7 on an Air New Zealand flight from Brisbane, before staying at the Novotel Auckland Ellerslie hotel in managed isolation. They had travelled from the United Kingdom to Wellington for a parent’s funeral and were given special dispensation to leave isolation on June 13 to attend a parent’s funeral in the capital.

Dr Bloomfield stated: “A new case is something that we hoped we wouldn’t get but it’s also something we expected, and we had planned for.”

He also confirmed the two women were not tested for Covid-19 before being allowed to leave the Novotel but that this incident has led to a rethink and to a policy change.

He said: “What I have asked for from today is that anyone who is being released on a compassionate exemption is tested and there is a negative test result received and confirmed before they are released.”

Both are now self-isolating, and Bloomfield emphasised that the family have requested privacy. The pair had only been in contact with a single family member since leaving the Novotel and that individual is also being tested.

He also confirmed that the task of contact tracing and testing is also underway, with Novotel staff being tested and Customs and Immigration footage being reviewed at Auckland Airport to identify any border staff who may have been in contact with them.

Does this news highlight how easy a second wave of the virus could begin in NZ and bring in to question how well overseas travel would work and how/when we should begin to open borders? Or does is prove that the procedures we have in place do work and we should hurry plans along.

Despite the news and a new outbreak in China, Air New Zealand still plan to resume passenger flights between Auckland and Shanghai from June 22.

Image Credits: ©eMirage – stock.adobe.com

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