Coronavirus, Covid 19: Air New Zealand international hotel staff must now be quarantined

Air New Zealand’s international flight crew must now be isolated in hotels, not at home. Image / file

International Air New Zealand crew returning home from countries where they are at risk of contracting Covid-19 should now quarantine them in a special hotel where the tab is picked up by taxpayers.

Until Monday, cabin crew had the option to self-isolate at home in New Zealand.

TVNZ reports that about 80 pilots and cabin crew are now being transported on high-risk flights every week to a hotel where a private healthcare team tests them for Covid-19.

If the test result is negative, they can leave after 48 hours.

“We will not have security at the door. We are confident that airlines will follow the rules,” Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins told 1News.

Tonight, the Health Ministry told the Herald the arrangement would require a dedicated air crew to transport to a hotel, and isolate as soon as possible upon landing, before any interaction with the community.

They are also required to bring back a negative Covid-19 result before traveling home or interacting with the community.

The ministry said the hotel the air crew is staying in, which it will not name or specify where it is, is not subject to MIQ management.

However, cabin crew are required to follow isolation requirements, which include staying in their rooms until their test result is available. Meals are delivered to their rooms during this time and they are allowed to exercise outside provided they maintain social distance and wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Previously, Air New Zealand's international flight crew could self-isolate at home.  Image / Image / File
Previously, Air New Zealand’s international flight crew could self-isolate at home. Image / Image / File

Some question why the calm has remained and say that the new measures are failing to keep us safe.

Epidemiologist Michael Baker said the new procedures for cabin crews may come as a surprise to New Zealanders because this has not actually happened.

He said this remains a low hurdle to stop the virus.

“Some countries may require cabin crew to always undergo a 14-day quarantine process, and they will stay in a designated facility near the airport.

“I suspect some countries will be tougher than New Zealand and will require cabin crew to stay in the air at a facility for 14 days before entering the community,” Baker said.

This would be a higher barrier to protection, he said.

1 News said some cabin crew members have been informed of the suspicion of breaking into self-isolation at home and that Hepkins is aware of the allegations.

“It is difficult to respond to anecdotes rather than actual evidence that people did not follow the rules,” he said.

The costs for the new arrangement are being paid by the government, which says Air New Zealand is an essential service, and at the moment it is imperative to keep the national carrier in the air.

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