I was talking to my brother last night. He was about to board his flight from LA to Auckland, he had his negative Covid test in his hot little hand, he sent me pictures of the airport all closed off. Red tape everywhere, barriers, closed doors, the Koru lounge closed, all the shops closed, even the travelators were cordoned off.
He said there was a mix of people in masks casually pulling them up and down to eat or use their phones, and others in full Hazmat suits. He was relieved he had his Covid test result back in time, and that it was negative.
But he texted me from the plane saying two other Kiwis who’d checked in, put their bags though, cleared immigration, got all the way to the gate, and then at the eleventh hour were turned away. Not allowed to board.
They had their negative Covid tests in their hand like he did, but theirs had just expired. The test result can be no older than 72 hours, and they’d just slipped through that expiry window. They were devastated. One of them was in two masks and a full face shield, all geared up for the flight, but his flight was a no-go. My brother said he thought it was pretty harsh.
Is it though? I mean, we have that rule in place for a reason. The rules are the rules, and if you’re travelling during a pandemic, you should know them. And if airlines start flexing on people regards their testing windows then we’d be in all kinds of mess surely?
So as hard as it must be for those two New Zealanders to be turned away at the gate, it was actually the right decision. My brother was very relieved to get on board.
He said he arrives at 7am this morning and could I please bring him a coffee and a bagel. No, I replied, I told him he’ll likely be on a bus to Rotorua or Hamilton for his quarantine. He’s hoping he can stay local so people can drop him food and things. Are you allowed to do that though?
Someone I know tried to drop her partner a spin bike in quarantine so he could stay fit, but she was turned away: no bikes, no exercise equipment, hotels don’t want to take the risk of anyone getting injured and needing to go to a hospital apparently. And that’s fair enough. Although I have seen others get dropped exercise equipment in, so maybe that rule varies from hotel to hotel.
Which leads me to this latest community case in Northland. We are being pretty stringent at making people jump through hoops before they even get onto a plane to get into this country. Surely we shouldn’t let up now.
Yes we can test, test, test, but we also need to roll out the vaccine quick sticks, and according to many of this country’s epidemiologists, actually go so far as to ban flights coming in from the UK and the US. We’ve come so far. Let’s hope we don’t drop the ball now.
Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.
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