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Hundreds of stranded travellers assisted home

A New Zealand Defence Force C-130 Hercules carrying 39 people from Vanuatu and a charted medevac flight carrying 13 New Zealanders from the Greg Mortimer cruise ship off the coast of Uruguay are the latest successful repatriations of New Zealanders stranded overseas due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Foreign Minister Winston Peters says.

"The deployment of the C-130 to Vanuatu carrying a helicopter and additional supplies to support the Tropical Cyclone Harold response effort gave us the opportunity to repatriate a large group of New Zealanders seeking to return home," Winston says.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the largest consular response New Zealand has ever undertaken.

"Consular teams here and around the world are navigating extremely complex circumstances every day, to continue to find solutions that work.

"Our most recent repatriation effort occurred this afternoon with 13 people previously stranded aboard the Greg Mortimer cruise ship off the coast of Uruguay having arrived in Auckland on a government-chartered medevac plane from Melbourne.

"These people were in a dangerous situation, with very limited options to return, and a huge amount of work went into assisting them to leave Uruguay.

"We continue to look for solutions in an extremely complex global environment, including working with our partners wherever we can, but government-chartered flights will only be explored in exceptional circumstances when all other options have been exhausted.

"New Zealanders overseas should be seeking to shelter safely where they are or return home by commercial means where possible," says Winston.

All passengers arriving into New Zealand will enter immediate quarantine.

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