18 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: Call for all New Zealanders to return home

11:51 am on 18 March 2020

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is urging New Zealanders travelling overseas to consider returning home as soon as possible as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread.

Passengers arrrive at Auckland Airport Monday 16 March

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

The ministry (MFAT) said the options for getting home are reducing dramatically as commercial airlines continue to slash routes.

Its Safe Travel notice warned travellers that the drop in passenger numbers caused by Covid-19 was putting airlines' future flights in doubt.

"Countries around the world are imposing strict travel restrictions," it said.

This is leading to a reduction in passenger numbers and many air routes will not remain commercially viable for long. The options for New Zealanders to get home are reducing dramatically. We are therefore urging New Zealanders travelling overseas to consider returning home as soon as possible.

"Travelling New Zealanders should work with their travel agents and airlines to discuss options for returning home."

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

All overseas travel had become more complex and unpredictable, it said.

"A number of countries and territories are currently experiencing an active outbreak of Covid-19 (coronavirus). There have been significant travel disruptions globally.

"A number of countries and territories have announced they are closing their borders to or introducing movement restrictions on foreign nationals, including Australia, and these are changing very quickly.

"Border restrictions may apply to New Zealanders, including those seeking to transit through these countries or territories to New Zealand."

MFAT continued to advise people to avoid non-essential travel overseas.

Meanwhile in Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a level 4 travel ban for the first time in that country's history.

He says no Australians should travel abroad and he has banned non-essential gatherings of more than 100 people.

Morrison says all schools there will remain open.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs is also requesting its residents return home from overseas immediately.

In addition, Australia's DFAT is reminding people they may not have access to healthcare or support if they do get sick overseas.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs