The Government has levelled its strongest possible warning against travel overseas in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters announced the Government was ramping up its warnings against travel overseas and said New Zealanders who continued to do so were “selfish”.
“We are raising our travel advice to the highest level: do not travel,” Mr Peters said on Thursday afternoon.
“This is the first time the New Zealand Government has advised New Zealanders against travelling anywhere overseas. That reflects the seriousness of the situation we are facing with Covid-19,” he said.
Peters warned New Zealanders to get home fast and told reporters at Parliament registrations on the government’s ‘safe travel’ website had surged from 17,000 to 20,000 overnight. The website allows New Zealanders overseas to register their contact details with the government.
“Why add to our problems, we’ve got a huge set of difficulties which we can succeed on..we’ve got to be very conscious of our collective responsibility towards each other,” Peters said.
“It is selfish because they imperil the population back here,” he said.
Peters said the situation was so serious New Zealand might need to be ‘locked down’ in future to prevent transmission of the disease.
“You’ve got to look at every possible alternative or permutation in this decision-making and lockdown is a possibility, yes,” he said.
Asked whether “community spread” might be the trigger for a lockdown, Peters replied: “Yes”.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier moved to dismiss speculation around a lockdown after a number of hoax messages were sent out to the public that warned people of an imminent lockdown.
“In the midst of what is a global issue, as you would expect, there are a number of rumours that circulate,” Ardern said in Rotorua
“I am present on social media. I see it myself. I cannot go around and individually dismiss every single rumour that I see on social media, as tempted as I might be to do so,” she said.
“Instead, I want to send a message to the New Zealand public: we will share with you the most up to date information daily, you can trust us as a source of that information, you can also trust the Director-General of Health and the Ministry of Health.”
Peters also said planning was underway for “mercy flights” to help New Zealanders get home.
“We’ve got to anticipate that if we’ve got a whole lot of people offshore who can’t get home they might be able to assemble in one place and we get a plane to them,” Peters said.
Peters said a small team was looking into what airports and locations those mercy flights might fly from.
The flights would likely be centred in places where there were large concentrations of New Zealanders or where a large number of New Zealanders might be able to gather.
“What I’d say to a lot of New Zealanders that were saying ‘look we don’t want those 80,000 back’, put yourself in their shoes, they’re New Zealanders, they’re fellow countrymen and women, they’re members of your family, we’ve got to think bigger than that,” he said.
Read more of Newsroom’s Covid-19 coverage here.
Covid-19 is transmitted like the flu. The Ministry of Health recommends that all New Zealanders wash their hands frequently and refrain from touching their face in order to protect themselves and others. Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have any symptoms and have been to any countries or territories of concern or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with Covid-19.