New health measures introduced as Covid spreads overseas

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Mon, 22 Jun 2020, 3:58PM

New health measures introduced as Covid spreads overseas

Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Mon, 22 Jun 2020, 3:58PM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced further measures to protect New Zealand against Covid-19 as the world enters a "dangerous new phase".

Ardern is giving her post-Cabinet press conference with Cabinet Minister Megan Woods who has been given ministerial oversight of the Government's isolation and quarantine operations.

Ardern said the spread of Covid-19 globally was being called by the World Health Organisation a "dangerous new phase".

She said a new health order will make it clear that individuals must submit to testing and medical exams, including the potential for multiple tests.

The order also says a negative test must be returned before anyone can leave quarantine or managed isolation.

People were previously required to meet the "low risk indicator", but that had included an expectation of a test before leaving managed isolation. The new order made it more explicit, Ardern said.

"That was really clear. Now what we're doing is making it crystal clear."

The cruise ship ban, which was due to expire at the end of the month, has also been extended.

"For any vessel in a NZ port, crew coming into NZ must complete a 14-day period of managed isolation here unless they have been on the boat for 28 days."

The new policy was due to the mingling of crew between cargo ships, Ardern said.

She said it would come into force at the end of the month. The current settings would remain in place until then.

The new policy meant that anyone wanting to have shore leave will be required to have 14 days isolation in New Zealand or 28 days in isolation on their vessels.

Surveillance testing would also continue to used at the border, she said.

Ardern said her focus was on keeping inevitable new cases contained at the border.

Quarantine at the border will remain but she was still looking at co-payment for those in quarantine or managed isolation. She stressed that they were actively being looked at.

She said there wasn't a "blank cheque" for the costs of managed isolation, and the costs will depend on how many Kiwis come home.

Woods said there was a $298 million budget for quarantine and isolation facilities up to the end of the year. The money comes out of the $50 billion Covid response fund.

The actual cost would depend on how much demand there is, and whether a co-payment scheme will be established.

People in managed isolation facilities had restricted movement - some exercise and fresh air - but they were treated as if they had Covid-19 and were under close supervision, she said.

Woods said there was current capacity was for 4607 isolation places and there was currently breathing space of about 500 places.

More capacity will be brought into the system, she said. Capacity is looking at being enhanced in Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington and Christchurch.

Air Commodore Darryn Webb had been in contact with Rotorua officials on Friday about the possibility of having people in isolation there. Rotorua MP Tod McClay has criticised the Government for not giving the city more notice about the busloads of overseas arrivals.

Ardern said other options were still available before the Government had to resort to using the likes of campervans for managed isolation.

Only hotels where people could be kept separated were being considered for managed isolation.

She said air crew coming in from at-risk countries were under stricter measures of testing and isolation.

Health Minister David Clark would be talking with Air NZ about those measures, she said, which is expected to include measures for those flying in from Los Angeles.

There was "enthusiasm" to continue exploring the bluetooth Covid card option, but Ardern said the technical capability, privacy issues and the expected uptake were issues still being looked at.

Asked about the latest community transmission cases in Victoria, Australia, Ardern said it underlined the importance of not opening a transtasman travel bubble unless it was safe enough to do so.

Ardern said more Kiwis coming home - a doubling in the last month in terms of returnees - as well as a growing global pandemic were reasons why there were now more cases turning up at the border.

Some flights coming in were also coming from countries with higher rates of Covid-19, she said.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters had told Kiwis offshore in March to "come home now", and the Government was now dealing with those people who had effectively ignored that message.

Ardern said the family of fallen police officer Matthew Hunt are expected to complete a seven-day period of quarantine before being able to attend the funeral.

Ardern wouldn't be drawn on why there was still no answer on how many people had been granted compassionate leave without first being tested.

"I do expect [director general of health Ashley Bloomfield] will share that information when he has it."

It was more important that everyone was being tested, she said.