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Govt and Air New Zealand agree to manage incoming bookings

Bookings for seats on Air New Zealand flights into New Zealand will be managed in the short term to ensure the Government is able to safely place New Zealanders arriving home into a managed isolation or quarantine facility, says Housing Minister Megan Woods.

"Last week Air Commodore Darryn Webb and I met with Air New Zealand’s chief executive Greg Foran to discuss safe and robust ways to jointly manage the big growth in New Zealanders coming home," Megan Woods said.

"Air New Zealand has agreed to put a temporary hold on new bookings in the short term, as well as looking at aligning daily arrivals with the capacity available at managed isolation facilities.

"People who have already booked flights with Air New Zealand will still be able to enter New Zealand subject to availability of quarantine space," says Megan.

"We have seen similar moves in Australia, where passenger numbers into Sydney have been limited following the suspension of flights into Melbourne because of the surge in COVID cases in Victoria.

"They too are having to manage the flow of people into the country to match availability of managed isolation beds.

"We are seeing rapid growth in the numbers of New Zealander coming home as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens.

"Our number one priority is stopping the virus at the border, so everyone must to go into quarantine or managed isolation. The Government is also talking to other airlines about managing flows.

"The last thing we need are hastily set up facilities to meet demand, so we must have a manageable number of fit-for-purpose, safe facilities that do the job of stopping COVID at the border," Megan says.

"We currently have nearly 6000 people in our 28 managed isolation facilities, and are scaling up more spaces all the time, but we need to do so safely and new facilities need to be watertight before they are opened," Air commodore Darryn Webb says.

"Standing up new capacity at the required levels for people to stay in for 14 days of isolation is a hugely complex undertaking; it needs appropriate levels of health and other services near by, New Zealand Defence Force personnel and extra security to ensure that people are looked after properly and the risk of COVID getting out into the community is minimised.

"These temporary measures will ease the current demand on facilities while additional supply is brought on line. In the past three weeks we have brought on capacity of ten new facilities for 2000 more people, and have a plan to bring on another 750 places in the coming weeks.

"The pause on new bookings will be short-term, and allows us to increase supply to match forecasted demand over the coming weeks.

"We are closely monitoring the situation and working with Air New Zealand to smooth demand and ensure returnees can be safely housed in managed isolation facilities," Darryn says.

The numbers of those arriving has continued to increase in recent weeks, with 5697 people currently in managed isolation and quarantine.

More than 26,400 people have been through managed isolation and quarantine since March 26.

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