Claims of people getting through New Zealand border security unaware of self-isolation requirements surprise the Director-General of Health, who says the country has a "good process".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Saturday that anyone entering New Zealand must self-isolate for 14 days in an effort to restrict the spread of coronavirus COVID-19. The measure doesn't include people coming from the Pacific Islands.
Within hours of the restrictions coming into force at midnight on Sunday, Newshub had learnt of several foreigners saying they wouldn't self-isolate. Others Newshub have heard from, including the manager of an Auckland hostel, suggest some people entering New Zealand aren't aware of the new rules.
Kiwi Maree Glading wrote on Facebook of her experience at the airport on Wednesday morning. The post, which has now gone viral with thousands of reactions and shares, includes claims that there was no mention on the incoming plane of what was involved with self-isolation.
"No information was handed out at the airport arrivals. We were given a card where we had to give a contact address (not an isolation address) - no one asked us where we were staying or if we understood our obligations when isolating. No temperature checks. A handful of staff wearing masks," she wrote on Facebook.
She called the process a "joke", but Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield has confidence in it.
He mentioned the health declaration cards travellers must fill in, which requires people to say if they have any symptoms. Dr Bloomfield said recently 38 people have identified their symptoms and been assessed by a nurse at the airport.
"If people don't have symptoms, then it's really clear, and people understand the expectation of self-isolation… I am pretty confident in our process at the border. It has been in place since the new restrictions came into play on midnight Sunday," Dr Bloomfield told The AM Show.
"I think there is a good process, a good presence at the airport that is part of our overall actions.
Asked about Glading's claims, Dr Bloomfield said: "That surprises me".
"I do know that as people go through the border, there is a whole lot happening all at once and people are thinking about different things... The expectation of self-isolation is really clear to any passenger coming in."
On top of the need to fill out the health declaration card, there are telephone follow-ups and spot checks conducted. On Wednesday, Dr Bloomfield said just under 50 spot checks had been conducted by police with compliance being high.
The Director-General has previously also said that travellers will be turned around if their self-isolation rules are not up to standard.
"Now we have health staff at the border before the Immigration and Customs desk, and they are looking at the health declaration of every person coming in and quizzing them about their plans for self-isolation," Dr Bloomfield said.
"And if they are not convinced that the person has concrete plans, or if the person is objecting to self-isolation… we have either police staff or Customs officials there who can make a decision about whether that person gets let into the country in the first place."
The self-isolation rules will be reviewed at the end of the month. Other countries, such as Australia, have also implemented similar measures.
Two foreigners who refused to self-isolate after arriving in New Zealand on Monday have been taken into custody and are liable for deportation.
New Zealand has 20 cases of coronavirus. Across the globe, there are 200,000 confirmed cases with more than 8000 deaths.