Air NZ putting a temporary hold on new international bookings to NZ
The government and Air New Zealand have agreed to manage bookings to ensure New Zealanders arriving home can be safely placed in a managed isolation or quarantine facility.
Housing Minister Megan Woods said the airline had 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 had already booked flights with Air New Zealand would still be able to enter New Zealand subject to availability of quarantine space.
Woods said the government was also talking to other airlines about managing flows.
"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," Woods said in a statement.
"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 Zealanders 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 Woods said.
Air Commodore Darryn Webb said almost 6000 people were in the country's 28 managed isolation facilities, and new facilities needed to be "watertight" before they were opened.
"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."
The numbers of those arriving has continued to increase in recent weeks, with 5697 people currently in managed isolation and quarantine, the government said.
More than 26,400 people have been through managed isolation and quarantine since 26 March.