Cancelled flights: Frustration grows at lack of clarity on international border

Frustration is mounting at the lack of clarity on when international borders will reopen.

Covid-19 response minister Chris HIpkins has said there will be an announcement about the future of MIQ for international arrivals within a fortnight, but National’s leader Judith Collins says the Government should commit now to allowing transtasman travel for Christmas.

Air New Zealand has been forced to cancel around 1000 flights until the end of the year because of ongoing border uncertainty and a travel agent says there’s been no guidance on international travel since August.

Collins said today the Government should end MIQ right now, allowing fully vaccinated travellers with negative pre-departure tests to enter New Zealand.

“MIQ is a lottery of human misery and has seen one million Kiwis overseas shut out from their own country. The Prime Minister calls them ‘cumulative risks’, I call them Kiwis with rights.”

Collins said Prime MinisterJacinda Ardern seems firm on continuing her ”cruel and callous” MIQ policy for everyone entering New Zealand; but one low-risk thing she could do to bring relief to thousands of people is open the transtasman bubble for Christmas.

“There is no reason other than the Prime Minister’s obstinacy as to why fully vaccinated travellers with negative Covid tests couldn’t enter New Zealand from Australia,” said Collins.

One woman with parents in Tasmania who now can’t visit for Christmaswants the bubble restarted.

”Why not use Hobart to Auckland as the test run as there are zero cases there? It really doesn’t make much sense to keep the transtasman bubble closed for fully vaccinated people.”

There were205 cases of Covid in the community yesterday, but none were detected at the border and since the current outbreak began with the August quarantine failure, the number of cases among arrivals who must quarantine have been running at a fraction on those acquired locally.

Hipkins told the Herald this month decisions on MIQ werebased on risk and advice from a range of experts, including Te Pūnaha Matatini Covid-19 modellers, who say it’s not yet time to stop compulsory MIQ for international arrivals.

David Coombes, managing director Flight Centre Travel Group NZ, said his heart went out to Kiwis with friends and whānau in Australia, and vice versa, hoping to reconnect this Christmas.

Uncertainty around wheninternational borders will reopen was hitting customers and the travel industry hard and Air New Zealand had made the tough decision to pull international flights until December 31.

“It’s been over 100 days since the Government released its plan to reopen New Zealand. Since then, there has been absolutely no guidance on when the reopening might commence.”

From mid-December, Auckland’s borders open for domestic travel next month with the use of vaccinations and negative testing as a line of defence.

”It begs the question – why can’t the same be applied to international travel?”

Hipkins told RNZ yesterday there will be “a lot more movement” between Australia and New Zealand in the first quarter of next year, with the Government planning to announce changes to MIQ in the next two weeks,

Hipkins said the Government was awaiting some public health advice and the removal of MIQ restrictions was “likely to be a progressive exercise”, he said.

A date for the beginning of that removal of restrictions will be announced shortly, he said.

However, the transtasman bubble was “unlikely” to be relaunched this year, he told RNZ.

Air New Zealand chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty saidbecause quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand was unlikely to recommence this year, the airline had made the”difficult decision” to change itsschedule.

“This will be particularly tough news for families and friends who were hoping to catch up over Christmas. I appreciate how difficult this news will be, but our hands are tied until border restrictions ease, and we receive further clarity from the New Zealand Government.”

Other airlines are frustrated at the lack of information.Air Tahiti Nui, has withdrawn flights from its schedule next year and other carriers are running out of time torebuild in this country next year.

The travel and tourism industries here fear the country could get left behind as airlines are now returning to other markets, which are open with capacity that is down on pre-Covid times.Australia has opened up quickly with Melbourne this week joining Sydney in welcoming back vaccinated travellers who don’t have to quarantine.

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