Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses media at opening of telehealth service in Auckland

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to talk to media at the opening of a telehealth service centre in Auckland this morning.

She is expected to be asked about suspending all travel out of India as hundreds of distraught Kiwis are left in limbo after yesterday’s shock announcement.

India is grappling with a growing Covid crisis, with some 93,000 people contracting the virus each day.

In recent days, more than 33 people flying from India have tested positive for the infection soon after landing in New Zealand.

Yesterday, travel from the sub-continent was put on pause from Sunday for a fortnight after the massive surge of cases in managed isolation.

It meant some 630 New Zealanders currently in India would not be able to return home between April 11 and April 28.

Although Ardern said she understood the difficulties the travel suspension might put on New Zealanders in India, she said she has “a sense of responsibility and obligation” to reduce the Covid risk to New Zealand, and to the travellers returning home.

She was unable to rule out an extension of the travel suspension but said it was not intended to be a long-term tool.

During the fortnight-long travel suspension, the Government would be developing a new system to manage people returning from high-risk countries, such as India.

This included looking at systems in place in New Zealand, as well as what can be done around pre-departure testing.

Ardern was yesterday not ruling out extending the unprecedented Indian travel suspension to other high-risk countries in order to keep New Zealand Covid-free.

This morning, Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said officials would look at what more could be done on either side of the border to protect New Zealanders from infected cases, including examining pre-departure testing in India.

“We can look at should the requirement be closer to the point of departure, are there other forms of testing we could do in India,” Hipkins told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking.

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield yesterday suggested separating returnees from high-risk areas from those isolating with those from low-risk countries.

That would mean putting all people returning from places such as India, Brazil and the US in one MIQ facility, separate from everyone else.

There are presently 95 active Covid cases in quarantine facilities.


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