A Kiwi traveller was left stunned after claiming Auckland Airport hadn’t run any health checks on passengers arriving back from Hong Kong this morning.
The Auckland man, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he had recently travelled around Vietnam and Singapore before returning home.
But when he arrived at Auckland Airport, he walked straight through customs and security with no additional screening or health checks.
“We flew in about 10 this morning. I’ve been away for about a week in Asia,” he told the Herald.
“We’ve been watching it all unfold and knew the self-isolation rules were coming in to play tonight, so we expected pretty strict screening on the way in, whether it was health checks or filling out a health declaration but we got absolutely nothing. There was no one around.
“When you enter the country you have to fill out an incoming arrival declaration form where you list the countries you’ve been to in the last 14 days. I thought they might have taken a look at that and depending on where you’ve come from they might have asked some questions, but we got nothing.”
The traveller said all other airports he had been to across Asia were on high alert and were conducting mandatory health checks on every passenger he saw passing through.
The man, who says he has no symptoms of any illness, claimed his temperature was taken three times while in transit overseas and had to walk through heat sensor while abroad.
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He says it was bizarre to see no extra checks at Auckland Airport.
“Going through other airports in other countries there were authorities taking temperatures, making travellers fill out health declarations at every country we went into.
“But there was nothing in New Zealand which was quite surprising.
“They mentioned coronavirus when descending into Auckland Airport. We got the standard talk from immigration about protecting the country but they then talked about if you’re feeling unwell then ring the helpline and that was basically it.
“It was a bit bizarre considering the enforced isolation period is coming in. It kind of feels like they don’t care about the passengers coming in today.”
When asked about the lack of extra health measurements and checks at airports around the country, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said temperature screening wasn’t being done because of the danger of false-positives.
He said there were announcements at the airport and other avenues for information.
If had people had symptoms, they could seek advice from a nurse at airports.
According to Customs New Zealand’s website, eGates are closed and everyone has to be manually checked by a customers officer.
And they will continue to be closed from 3am tomorrow as the new travel restrictions begin:
“Passengers arriving in New Zealand on flights from all other countries cannot use eGates, and will continue to have their passports physically checked by a Customs Officer.
“All passengers arriving in New Zealand will continue to be risk assessed and screened using a number of methods by government agencies before they are allowed to enter the country. Any passenger identified as high risk is referred to Public Health Officers.”
The Safe Travel website updated today urging New Zealanders to avoid all non-essential travel overseas.
Another woman has since contacted the Herald, claiming her son-in-law arrived home from the US feeling unwell but was not checked by officials before entering New Zealand.
She says she is stunned at the lack of response.
“My son in law arrived home on Friday with his daughter after 10 days in Los Angeles and las Vegas. During the flight he felt aches and pains and after landing he felt more unwell.
“He went straight to his room and is in self-quarantine. My daughter rang the health line and was told there was not much they could do and he was to stay in quarantine until he felt better. What concerns me is no effort was made to discover what flight he was on.”
Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that any person from any country, excluding the Pacific islands, will be required to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival to the country, and she encouraged all New Zealanders to avoid all non-essential travel overseas.
This morning Ardern sought to calm fears about whether people would self-isolate properly, saying that the 10,500 New Zealanders who had done it so far had been overly compliant, with some staying home for more than 14 days.
But she said authorities, including police, had the power to quarantine people at a medical facility and station staff at the door.
That power had not been used so far, she told Q+A.
The Government has been constantly looking at global developments, and the new restrictions unveiled on Saturday were the next step to “go hard” to flatten the curve.
The goal was to avoid a large-scale community spread of the virus, and the new travel restrictions were about keeping pressure off the public health system as the number of positive cases rose.
“We will have more cases in New Zealand. We will,” Ardern told Q+A.
“What we’re trying to do is slow the speed with which we have them.”
Eighty per cent of people will have mild to moderate symptoms, and they’ll stay at home and should be fine.
Hospital space needed to be saved for more severe cases.
“At the upper end, 7 per cent roughly might be much more acute,” Ardern said.
She said self-isolation didn’t mean you can’t go outside, but you shouldn’t go to public places. It “pretty much” meant you should stay at home.