People arriving in New Zealand at the country's busiest airport will soon be divided into two groups: travellers from countries safe from COVID-19 and travellers from countries that are not.
Auckland Airport has announced the plan in anticipation of an air corridor being formed between Aotearoa and the Cook Islands.
There is mounting pressure on the New Zealand Government to establish a travel corridor or bubble with the Cook Islands to help the country's economy and to give holidaying Kiwis a safe international option.
Auckland Airport describes the two separate areas as follows:
- International Terminal Zone A, safe travel area: The main pier to the south (gates 1-10) will be used by people travelling to and from countries with which New Zealand has formed a safe travel bubble. People who have been in New Zealand for more than 14 days and are departing on international flights will also use Terminal A. Retail and food and beverage options will be available
- International Terminal Zone B, health management area: A second self-contained zone will be created out of Pier B (gates 15-18), the pier that points to the west. International Zone B will be used for travellers arriving from countries with which New Zealand does not have a safe travel bubble, and who are required to undergo either managed isolation or quarantine. It will also be used for passengers transiting through Auckland Airport en route elsewhere. With the limited number of transit passengers, food and beverage options will be made available via vending machines
"By reconfiguring our terminal into two separate zones we are creating a safe way for people to travel to and from countries that we have formed a travel bubble with, as well as being able to safely process New Zealanders arriving from other countries," says the airport's chief executive, Adrian Littlewood.
"Auckland Airport is building the new internal walls to allow for the terminal to be separated, and we are working through the final stages of planning with border agencies and airlines to enable the physical and operational separation."
Littlewood concedes the opening of an international travel bubble is a Government decision, but says the airport is working hard to make sure infrastructure is in place to allow it.
"Making these major operational changes is only possible with the commitment and support of all our partners across the airport system. We have worked hard to protect New Zealand against the virus and this close collaboration will continue as we work to enable future safe travel bubbles."
On The AM Show on Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a timeframe for reopening quarantine-free travel with the Cook Islands could be finalised in the next couple of weeks.
"We have a lot of people transiting through New Zealand... who are coming from high-risk countries. So we basically need to create an airport where no one has contact with one another," said Ardern.
"We can't bear the burden of the risk to the Cook Islands in particular if this isn't done properly. They are COVID-free, their health system is heavily reliant on ours, so it's in both our interests to get this right."