Silver Ferns v England: Outrage at Silver Ferns travel exemption under COVID-19 Alert Level 4

A decision to grant Auckland-based Silver Ferns netballers a travel exemption to play England next week has met with public outrage, as others struggle to leave the city under COVID-19 Alert Level 4.

With their three-test series scheduled to start on Monday, the NZ women faced the prospect of taking the court without newly promoted captain Gina Crampton and vice-captain Sulu Fitzpatrick, along with midcourt Peta Toeava and rookie shooter Grace Nweke, who were trapped in lockdown.

But the Government has given the quartet permission to leave Auckland, despite strict travel restrictions that have seen others prosecuted and publicly pilloried for running the border, with the rest of New Zealand under Alert Level 2.

"To be able to play international sport during these times is something we don't take for granted, so we'd like to acknowledge the work done behind the scenes from many to ensure this series can go ahead," says Netball NZ chief executive Jennie Wyllie.

All four returned negative COVID tests before travelling, but their clearance has met with a sharp response from other Kiwis concerned at perceived double standards.

"I love my netball, don't get me wrong, but a friend of mine had to watch her father's funeral this week online from Auckland, while the funeral took place in Whakatane," Suzanne Bell responds to the Facebook announcement. "Why did they get an exemption approved over her declined one?"

"I disagree with this decision," posts Sally Casbolt. "Why does sport get special dispensation over other people and other businesses?!"

"This is so wrong to allow these players, when any other person that has asked for an exemption gets denied to see their loved ones that they may have lost," says Jamie Pita. "All for a game of netball... let that sink in.

"Very poor move from the Silver Ferns."

The decision also attracted unsolicited complaints to The AM Show.

"I am feeling absolutely outraged by the political niceties," says one. "Why did the netballers get permission to leave Auckland."

Says another: "Very disappointed with these netballers being able to travel to Christchurch. We love sport, but we can't believe how sportspeople have been allowed to move for sport.

"I have a friend whose husband was having a heart attack at home, taken in the ambulance and died 10 minutes down the road to hospital. She was not allowed to go in the ambulance with him, because of COVID, even though she was in her bubble and spent hours at home by herself, waiting to hear the news.

"Some hours later, an officer turned up at her door, telling her the bad news. Where are our priorities, I think this is disgraceful."

This week, two Aucklanders were prosecuted, after leaving the city without permission and flying to their Wanaka holiday home. Others were busted using their essential-worker status to leave the city for a ski excursion.

Six Auckland-based rugby players have been returned home, after they were incorrectly given exemptions to link with other provinces for the restart of the national competition this weekend.

More to come

Join us from September 20 for live updates of the Silver Ferns v England Roses netball series