Baker backs scrapping of mercy flights

Michael Baker says the situation in New South Wales  shows how vigilant New Zealand has to be...
Michael Baker says the situation in New South Wales shows how vigilant New Zealand has to be regarding the Delta variant. Photo: RNZ
A public health professor is backing the Government's last-minute call to scrap mercy flights out of New South Wales.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins yesterday announced the flights - which were due to begin bringing New Zealanders home from midnight - are being postponed for at least three days.

Returnees will be rebooked from Tuesday, but will now have to spend 14 days in a managed isolation hotel on arrival, although they will not have to pay for their stay.

University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker said with the highly contagious Delta variant of Covid-19 spreading so rapidly, trans-Tasman travel needs to be flexible.

"This is all about having a proportionate response to the level of risk in different jurisdictions in Australia, and we can see or get a sense that there's a real concern in New South Wales at the moment about their ability to contain this current outbreak."

Baker said international travel requires control measures including pre-departure testing, stints in managed isolation, and no-fly zones.

He said it shows how vigilant New Zealand needs to be, as the Delta variant takes hold in Australia.

As many as 2500 New Zealanders are trapped across the Tasman after repatriation flights from New South Wales were halted.

The government says travellers should expect to be contacted by airlines in the next 24 hours.

It also expected to free up 1000 MIQ rooms for people travelling from NSW, and will work on releasing more rooms in the near future.

Hipkins yesterday asked those who did not need to return to New Zealand urgently "to hold back", to allow those who urgently need to travel to do so.



Why does anybody listen to this guy? He is like a willow, his opinons change and go whatever direction the wind blows!

I back nobody listen to this guy.

The delta (India) variant needs a reappraisal of responses. The evidence is that it can transmit through the most fleeting of interactions. The NSW outbreak started with an unvaccinated, non-mask-wearing limo driver transporting crew from an airfreight flight ... by the time it was found there were four cases in the community and the spark was in the tinder around Bondi. 'Floating embers' have now set up cases elsewhere ...
Until vaccination numbers are high it is best to be cautious. Despite improvements in care there have been deaths in NSW. There are young people in intensive care ...
Regrettably (from a convenience point of view) Hipkins is right. Keeping this variant out is very important. The inconvenience of a more transmissible form, that is hitting young people, often hard, arriving in the country is going to be a damn sight higher than closing down flights for a few weeks.
Australian States are clamping down hard on travel from NSW, they are convinced. Baker is giving good advice.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter