Travellers on Air New Zealand flights will have access to face masks as the Government prioritises a $150m purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Air New Zealand would provide passengers with masks and they would be required to wear them when disembarking and travelling to Covid-19 quarantine and isolation facilities.
Passengers would be encouraged to wear masks but it would require a law change to make them compulsory, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said at her weekly post-Cabinet briefing yesterday.
Air New Zealand would give guidance about the appropriate use of masks.
“We want to ensure they are being used. We are major shareholders in Air New Zealand and this gives us an extra measure of safety,” Ardern said.
When asked about opening New Zealand’s borders, Ardern said she was aware of the sacrifices being made especially by the tourism industry.
However Pacific Islands leaders wanted to move cautiously on behalf of their populations.
“On the issue of Australia, nothing has changed from New Zealand’s perspective. We always said we will not move to open a trans-Tasman bubble until we have reassurances New Zealanders will be safe,” Ardern said.
“We’ve set some criteria around what the expectations are and it’s up to Australia to decide whether they go to a whole of country approach or state by state approach.
“Obviously where there is community transmission outbreak that is a no-go for New Zealand. Where they have border controls in place and no community transmission in place then that may be a different scenario.”
She said there was still work to be done because a number of incoming flights were not just trans-Tasman but also had transit passengers from other places so there would need to be a change to the way airports were accessed by people from around the world for any border relaxation.
The new $150m investment in PPE followed an earlier $200m commitment which came after concerns that supply and use had not been consistent for returning Kiwis and frontline workers.
Ardern said that new cases identified over past fortnight had all been within quarantine or isolation facilities and New Zealand was isolating the equivalent of the town of Kerikeri, which had a population of more than 7000.
In a statement, health minister David Clark said that over the past two weeks millions of items of PPE had arrived in New Zealand’s central PPE store.
These items included masks, isolation gowns, disposable aprons, face shields, goggles, gloves and hand sanitisers and disinfectant wipes, which had been hard to obtain during the Covid-19 pandemic due to global shortages.
“It will ensure health workers, who wear comprehensive PPE when they are in close contact with returnees as they do swabbing and health checks, continue to receive it,” Clark said.
“Face masks and gloves must also be available to other workers at the facilities – and returnees will also be required to wear face masks when they are in common or exercise areas.”
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