15 Mar 2020

Travellers' self-isolation: Warning tens of thousands of tourism jobs in jeopardy

6:45 am on 15 March 2020

The tourism industry is in shock and predicting widespread job losses over the government's announcement that virtually all travellers arriving in New Zealand from tonight will need to self-isolate.

Passengers from international flights at Auckland Airport on Monday 27 January, after flights from Guangzhou and Shanghai had touched down.

Passengers from international flights at Auckland Airport in January. Photo: RNZ / Liu Chen

And the union, E tū is predicting a massive hit to the aviation industry as it scales back operations, affecting thousands of workers and their families on a scale not seen before.

New Zealand has announced the world's tightest border controls to combat the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus, requiring all incoming travellers, including its own citizens, to self-isolate for two weeks starting from midnight tonight.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the extreme measures in Auckland yesterday, saying they were needed to prevent the rapid spread of the virus.

"Alongside Israel, and a small number of Pacific Islands who have effectively closed their border, this decision will mean New Zealand will have the widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world," Ardern said.

The country has just six confirmed cases (plus two probable cases) and has had no deaths, but Ardern said that number inevitably would rise.

"That is why ultimately, we must go hard and we must go early. We must do everything we can to protect the health of New Zealanders," she said.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says hard measures are needed now to protect New Zealanders' health. Photo: RNZ / Jogai Bhatt

Businesses, job on the line

The Tourism Industry Aotearoa warned that tens of thousands of jobs could be on the line.

"Thousands of businesses are facing real threats to their survival, so the government's business support package due next week is going to be incredibly important to ensure that we can keep people in jobs and we can keep businesses afloat," said its chief executive, Chris Roberts.

The New Zealand Cruise Association chief executive, Kevin O'Sullivan, said his industry was in a state of shock.

"I can understand why the prime minister and the government are deciding to take these steps, but they certainly are much harsher than anywhere else in the world," he said.

"Once again they seem to have the most serious implications for us in the cruise industry."

The new policy

  • All travellers arriving in New Zealand after midnight tonight, including New Zealand citizens, will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • All travellers into New Zealand are being registered, and Healthline will step up how it monitors the self-isolation process.
  • People from small South Pacific island nations, which have no confirmed Covid-19 cases, will be exempt from the self-isolation rule.
  • Strict exit measures are being imposed to protect the Pacific, barring anyone who has been overseas from travelling to South Pacific islands for two weeks, and barring anyone who has had symptoms or been in contact with anyone with Covid-19 from travelling there.
  • All cruise ships are being told to stay away until 30 June.
  • The government is urging people to reconsider any non-urgent overseas travel.
  • The restrictions do not apply to cargo ships or cargo planes or to marine or air crew. The government will be aiming to ensure sea and air freight routes remain open for imports and exports.
  • The measures will be reviewed in 15 days.
  • Finance Minister Grant Robertson will announce an economic response including the business continuity package on Tuesday.
  • Government guidance on self-isolation and advice on mass gatherings will be released in the next few days.
  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

Union predicts disruption on scale never seen before

The union, E tū says it's preparing for a scale of disruption to the aviation industry unlike anything ever seen before.

It says the prime minister's announcement will ensure a massive hit to the aviation industry as it scales back operations.

E tū's Head of Aviation, Savage, says thousands of workers and their families will be affected as cabin crew, caterers, aviation security, customs, airport workers, engineers, ground handlers, refuellers, and cargo workers see a massive drop off in work.

New Zealand's largest aviation union has close to 8000 members and it's implementing a plan to ensure union members and their workplace leaders are supported.

It says consultations with employers will escalate in the weeks ahead as employers begin consulting employees about what the shutdowns mean in their sector.

E tū says other workers in hospitality and tourism are facing similar issues.

Other Covid-19 key developments this weekend

Today's mosque attack national memorial service at Horncastle Arena in Christchurch was called off yesterday, due to Covid-19 coronavirus concerns.

A statement said the event, to be held at Horncastle Arena in Christchurch, was expected to attract a large crowd, with many travelling from around New Zealand and from overseas.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said while there was no community transmission of Covid-19 in New Zealand, a precautionary approach to protect the health of all New Zealanders was being taken.

Cabinet Minister Megan Woods and Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel told a media conference in the city that because it was a non-ticketed event and people were coming from overseas and around the country, it was too risky to proceed.

Auckland's Remembrance Event for the Christchurch mosque attacks, has also been cancelled. The event was due to take place at Eden Park this afternoon.

A memorial event at one of Wellington's waterside sheds and an exhibition of posters and photos have also been called off.

Sixth NZ case confirmed

The sixth case of Covid-19 coronavirus in New Zealand has been confirmed by Waitematā District Health Board.

Waitematā DHB chief executive Dale Bramley said yesterday that a man who returned home from the US on 6 March has been confirmed as having the virus.

The man, who is in his 60s, is currently doing well at home and his wife is in self-isolation.

Trump declares national emergency

US President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus, opening the door to providing what he said was about $US50 billion in federal aid to fight the disease.

Trump said he was declaring the national emergency in order to "unleash the full power of the federal government."

He urged every state to set up emergency centres to help fight the virus.

The declaration enabled the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist state and local governments and coordinate the US response to the crisis. The virus has killed 41 people in the United States.

The travel ban Trump has imposed on 26 European countries has come into effect in the United States.

The measure - imposed to try to limit the spread of the coronavirus - affects countries that are members of the Schengen border-free travel area and excludes, among others, Britain and the Republic of Ireland, as well as returning US citizens.

Surrounded by members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, US President Donald Trump speaks at a press conference on COVID-19.

US President Donald Trump announcing the emergency in the Rose Garden at the White House. Photo: AFP

Europe replaces China as the disease's epicentre

Europe is now the "epicentre" of the global coronavirus pandemic, the head of the World Health Organisation says.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to use aggressive measures, community mobilisation and social distancing to save lives.

"Do not just let this fire burn," he said.

His comments came as several countries in Europe reported steep rises in the number of infections and deaths. Spain is now the worst affected after Italy.

On Saturday (NZ time), Spain reported a 50 percent jump in fatalities to 120. Infections increased to 4200.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says a state of emergency will come into effect there today for two weeks.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus giving a briefing on the Covid-19 outbreak, 2 March

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Photo: AFP

Black Caps' tour of Australia abandoned

Blackcap player Lockie Ferguson celebrates a wicket.

Lockie Ferguson Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Chappell-Hadlee ODI cricket series between New Zealand and Australia has been postponed, and the Black Caps were due to return home last night.

The rule that anyone entering New Zealand will have to self isolate for 14 days means the Black Caps had to return home before the restriction took effect, and could not contest matches in Sydney tomorrow or Hobart on Friday.

A three-match Twenty20 series scheduled in New Zealand against Australia, beginning in Dunedin on March 24, has also been postponed.

New Zealand Cricket said it believed both series could be replayed in their entirety later this year.

Last night NZ Cricket announced fast bowler Lockie Ferguson's Covid-19 test has come back clear and he will return to New Zealand today from Sydney.

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