12 Jul 2021

NSW Covid-19 outbreak: Government releases urgent need return criteria

12:55 pm on 12 July 2021

New Zealanders needing urgently to get home from New South Wales are able to apply for special consideration under new criteria released by the government this morning.

Air New Zealand planes

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Air New Zealand began offering flights at 10am today for New Zealanders stranded in the Australian state, which recorded 77 new community cases of Covid-19 and one new death yesterday.

However just before 11.30am today, the airline said all flights from Sydney to New Zealand had already sold out within 15 minutes of going on sale.

It said because of limited spaces in managed isolation facilities, only 40 to 60 seats per flight were available.

Nine flights are operating in the next 10 days to Auckland and Christchurch only.

The airline said as more managed isolation spots were provided, more seats would be made available.

The commercial flights, with MIQ bookings automatically assigned, begin from tomorrow on a first-come-first-served basis.

However, with as many as 2500 New Zealanders in NSW, there are only about 1000 rooms set aside for the purpose over the next two weeks.

Also at 10am, the government revealed criteria for people to apply for about 20 percent of the MIQ spots reserved for people with an urgent or exceptional need to return.

The criteria includes cases where travel is required to:

  • Reduce serious risks to health and safety for the traveller or their dependants.
  • Provide appropriate care and protection for children.
  • Provide critical care to a dependent person in New Zealand.
  • Access treatment or support for a serious medical condition, and not accessing it would put the person in serious financial hardship.
  • On compassionate grounds such as visiting close relatives with a critical medical condition.

To be considered, people also need to be New Zealand citizens or residence-class visas; Australian citizens or permanent residents who last exited New Zealand on or after 5 April; temporary visa holders who last departed New Zealand on or after 5 April 2021; and spouses, civil union or de facto partners, dependent children or parents of dependent children in the aforementioned visa categories.

Partners or dependants would be able to return with their relevant companion traveller.

People who thought the fit those criteria were asked to contact the government's purpose-built call centre on +64 4 439 8235 to seek guidance on whether they were eligible. The call centre operates from 10am to 10pm, Monday to Friday.

Those considered eligible would be asked to fill out an application form.

With limited MIQ spots available, the government urged travellers who could safely remain in New South Wales to be patient and encouraged them to allow those with most urgent need to book first.

It said it was working on a plan to make more rooms available for NSW returnees after the initial two-week emergency allocation.

Unlike returning travellers from other countries, people coming from Australia will not have to pay for their 14-day isolation.