Coronavirus: Hundreds prevented from entering New Zealand since travel restrictions introduced

Since February 3, New Zealand has imposed strict regulations on travel.
Since February 3, New Zealand has imposed strict regulations on travel. Photo credit: Getty

More than 220 people have been prevented from entering New Zealand since travel regulations were introduced in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Since February 3, New Zealand has imposed strict regulations to limit the spread of the potentially deadly COVID-19 coronavirus into the country. The illness, for which there is currently no vaccine, originated in Wuhan, China and has infected more than 95,000 people worldwide, killing roughly 3300.

The first restriction introduced by the Government was on individuals who had been in or through mainland China in the 14-days prior to them departing for New Zealand. On February 28, this restriction was extended to individuals who had been in or through Iran, where there has been a surge in coronavirus cases. Additionally, the restriction also applies to people who were passengers or crew on the Diamond Princess Cruise ship which was docked in Yokohama, Japan in February.

However, these restrictions do not pertain to New Zealand citizens, permanent residents or their immediate family. Australians who have established residence in Aotearoa are also exempt. 

According to figures provided to Newshub by Immigration New Zealand, 222 people were prevented from entering Aotearoa between February 3 and March 5, specifically under those restrictions.

Of those 222, 203 passengers were prevented from boarding their flight to New Zealand, referred to as offloading, while 19 were refused entry when they arrived at the New Zealand border.

To date, the passengers prevented coming to New Zealand were travelling from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Korea, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the latest situation report from the World Health Organization, there are more than 80,000 confirmed cases in China - mostly in the Hubei province - and nearly 3000 in Iran. However, there is uncertainty about the accuracy of the Iranian number, especially with a disproportionately high number of deaths. Hospital officials have told international media the real number of cases is much higher.

New Zealand didn't confirm its first case of the coronavirus until February 28 - the same day the Iranian restrictions were introduced. That individual, the first of four cases so far, returned to New Zealand from Iran. The third person to test positive is believed to have contracted the illness from his father who recently visited Iran as well. The father is being tested and is a "probable" case.

The other two infected individuals recently visited northern Italy. The New Zealand Government is asking anyone who travelled there or to South Korea to self-isolate for 14-days, the virus' incubation period. Those two locations have seen dramatic jumps in confirmed cases. 

Kiwis who were on the Diamond Princess, as well as those who were in Wuhan when the virus first began spreading, were quarantined for two weeks at the Whangaparaoa military base.

The Government hasn't provided exemptions to let overseas students from China into New Zealand as some universities have requested. 

"The Government will continue to provide practical support to education providers as they adjust the way they deliver programmes to students. This includes being more flexible about entry dates for offshore Chinese student visas,” Tracey Martin said last week when acting Education Minister.

The restrictions, as well as airlines pulling out of several routes to China and other hotspots, have had economic implications, with tourism businesses struggling without the normal influx of people from Asia. 

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz