Airlines are doing their bit to help stop COVID-19 crossing New Zealand’s border.
Justin Tighe-Umbers, executive director of the Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand (BARNZ) says of the 11 airlines still flying internationally in New Zealand none have any reported air crew cases of the disease after crossing the border since April.
“The Ministry of Health requirements for overseas-based air crew are pretty specific,” Mr Tighe-Umbers says. “Basically after using dedicated transport from the airport, air crew have to self-isolate in their hotel rooms during any stop over. Meals are delivered to their rooms and they cannot use the pool, gym or any other recreational area. They cannot congregate with other crew members.
“The Ministry of Health can do spot checks, or audits to see if those conditions are being met. We know of seven airlines that have been audited and their systems at their hotels checked.”
Mr Tighe-Umbers says people should not be surprised that the MOH requirements and air crew compliance is working. Apart from the mandatory use of masks and gloves and other personal protective equipment and measures, the actual number of COVID-19 cases that have crossed the New Zealand border is very small.
“Official statistics we have been provided show that of the approximately 25,000 people who have come to New Zealand between April 9 – August 3 there has been 75 people test positive – that’s around 0.3% of travellers,” Mr Tighe-Umbers says.
“On top of that, the chances of catching COVID-19 during a flight has been shown internationally to be very slim due to the air conditioning and filtration systems in modern aircraft, combined with hygiene protocols and the use of PPE by air crew.”
BARNZ has also checked on the conditions covering grooms who look after horses that are air freighted. They follow Ministry of Health agreed protocols, are tested regularly and there are no reported cases of COVID-19 infection for any of the grooms.
While New Zealanders should not be fearful about the risk from air crew or grooms, Mr Tighe-Umbers says, they should be worried about the economic shock if airlines pull out of the country should conditions become too stringent for them to operate.