COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand
Ongoing coronavirus pandemic in New Zealand
Top 8 COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand related articles
- 1 Background
- 2 Transmission timeline
- 3 Responses
- 4 Repatriation flights and border control
- 5 Court rulings
- 6 Vaccines
- 7 Public opinion
- 8 Long-term effects
- 9 Alert level system
- 10 Support bubble
- 11 Testing
- 12 Statistics
- 13 See also
- 14 Footnotes
- 15 References
- 16 External links
|COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand|
Map of cases per million inhabitants in New Zealand by district health board
6+ cases per million people
Map of cases in New Zealand by district health board
200+ confirmed cases
100–199 confirmed cases
50–99 confirmed cases
10–49 confirmed cases
1–9 confirmed cases
Map of deaths in New Zealand by district health board
10+ confirmed deaths
2–9 confirmed deaths
1 confirmed death
0 confirmed deaths
|First outbreak||Wuhan, Hubei, China|
|Index case||Auckland, Auckland Region|
|Arrival date||28 February 2020|
(1 year, 3 weeks and 2 days ago)
|Confirmed cases||2,112 (total)|
|Suspected cases‡||356 (total)|
|‡Suspected cases have not been confirmed by laboratory tests as being due to this strain, although some other strains may have been ruled out.|
The COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand is part of the ongoing pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case of the disease in New Zealand was reported on 28 February 2020. As of 23 March 2021[update], the country has had a total of 2,468 cases (2,112 confirmed and 356 probable[a]). 26 people have died from the virus, with cases recorded in all twenty district health board (DHB) areas. The pandemic peaked in early April 2020, with 89 new cases recorded per day and 929 active cases.
All borders and entry ports of New Zealand were closed to non-residents on 19 March 2020, with returning citizens and residents being required to self-isolate. Since 10 April, all New Zealanders returning from overseas must go into two weeks of managed isolation.
A four-level alert level system was introduced on 21 March to manage the outbreak within New Zealand. The alert level was initially set at level 2, but was subsequently raised to level 3 on the afternoon of 23 March. Beginning on 25 March, the alert level was moved to level 4, putting the country into a nationwide lockdown. The alert level was lowered to level 3 on 27 April, partially lifting some lockdown restrictions, and down to level 2 on 13 May, lifting the rest of the lockdown restrictions while maintaining physical distancing and gathering size limits. The country moved down to level 1 on 8 June, removing all remaining restrictions except border controls.
On 11 August, four cases of COVID-19 from an unknown source were reported in Auckland, the first from an unknown source in 102 days. At noon the following day, the Auckland Region moved up to alert level 3, while the rest of the country was moved to level 2. On 30 August at 11:59 pm, Auckland moved down to "alert level 2.5", a modified version of alert level 2 with limitation on public gatherings, funerals, and weddings. On 23 September at 11:59 pm, Auckland moved down to alert level 2, after the rest of New Zealand moved to alert level 1 on 21 September at 11:59pm. On 7 October, Auckland also moved down to level 1.
On 14 February 2021, three community cases of COVID-19 were detected in Auckland. On the same day, at 11:59 pm, Auckland moved up to level 3 and the rest of New Zealand to level 2. On 17 February at 11:59 pm, Auckland moved down to level 2 and the rest of the country to level 1. On 22 February at 11:59 pm, Auckland moved down to level 1. On 28 February at 6:00 am, Auckland moved back up to level 3 while the rest of New Zealand moved to level 2. On 7 March at 6:00 am, Auckland moved back to level 2 while the rest of New Zealand moved to level 1. On 12 March, Auckland moved back to level 1 at midday.
New Zealand's approach to the pandemic has been widely praised internationally for its quick and tough action over the virus, having completed 1,852,557 tests as of 22 March 2021.
On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was the cause of a respiratory illness (coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19), found in a cluster of people in Wuhan, Hubei, People's Republic of China, which had been reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.
COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand Background articles: 9
New Zealand confirmed its second case on 4 March 2020, a woman in her 30s who had recently returned from northern Italy. The number of cases continued to rise significantly through March 2020, reaching a total of 647 (600 confirmed and 47 probable) and 74 recoveries by 31 March.
On 1 April 2020, 61 new cases were reported (47 confirmed and 14 probable), bringing the total to 708 (647 confirmed and 61 probable). On 5 April 2020, ethnicity statistics were released; indicating that 74% of those who had contracted COVID-19 were Pākehā, 8.3% Asian, 7.6% Māori, and 3.3% Pasifika. By 30 April, the total number of cases had reached 1,476 (1,129 confirmed and 347 probable) while the total number of recoveries had risen to 1,241 and the death toll to 19.
On 1 May 2020, there were a total of 1,479 cases (1,132 confirmed and 347 probable) and 1,252 recoveries reported. By 31 May, there were no new cases, keeping the total number at 1,504 (1,154 confirmed and 350 probable). The number of recovered had risen to 1,481 while the death toll reached 22. The last hospitalised person was also discharged on 27 May with only one active case remaining in the country by the end of the month.
On 8 June 2020, the last active case was declared as recovered. By 19 June, Director-General Ashley Bloomfield confirmed that a total of 327,460 tests had been conducted in New Zealand with 6,273 tested the previous day. After 24 consecutive days of no new cases, two new imported cases from the United Kingdom were reported on 16 June. By 30 June, there were a total of 22 active cases (all resulting from overseas travel) in New Zealand, bringing the total number to 1,528 cases (1,178 confirmed and 350 probable). The number of recovered also rose to 1,484 while the death toll has remained at 22.
By 31 July 2020, there were 20 active cases (all resulting from overseas travel) in New Zealand, bringing the total number to 1,560 cases (1,210 confirmed and 350 probable). The total number of recovered had risen to 1,518 while the death toll has remained at 22.
Following 102 days of no community transmissions, four such cases were reported in Auckland on 11 August 2020, putting the city back into lockdown. According to 1 News, Pacific Islanders made up 75% of the cases in the August community outbreak in Auckland. By 31 August, there were 131 active cases in New Zealand, bringing the total number to 1,738 (1,387 confirmed and 351 probable). The total number of recovered had reached 1,585 while the death toll remained at 22. The resurgence of coronavirus also prompted Ardern to delay the 2020 New Zealand general election from 19 September to 17 October.
On 4 September 2020, after 98 days with no deaths, the country's 23rd death from COVID-19 was reported in Auckland. The following day, the death of former Cook Islands prime minister Joe Williams, who was admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in August, was announced. By 30 September, there were a total of 44 cases in New Zealand, bringing the total number to 1,836 (1,480 confirmed and 356 probable). The total number of recovered had reached 1,780 while the death toll had reached 25.
On 21 October 2020, 25 new cases were reported, the majority of which came from foreign fishing crews who had quarantined at a hotel in Christchurch, while 2 cases of community transmission were reported among port workers, the first since 25 September. By 31 October, there were a total of 75 cases in New Zealand, bringing the total number of cases to 1,957 (1,601 confirmed and 356 probable). The total number of recovered had reached 1,857 while the death toll has remained 25.
On 12 November 2020, two community transmissions were linked to a Defence Force worker and a student living in the Auckland central business district. By 30 November, there were a total of 72 active cases in New Zealand, bringing the total number of cases to 2,056 cases (1,700 confirmed and 356 probable). The total number of recovered had reached 1,959 while the death toll has remained 25.
On 12 December 2020, an Air New Zealand crew member, who had earlier returned from the United States on 9 December, tested positive for COVID-19. By 31 December 2020, there were a total of 55 active cases in New Zealand, bringing the total number of cases to 2,162 (1,806 confirmed and 356 probable). The total number of recovered had reached 2,082 while the death toll has remained 25.
On 25 January 2021, New Zealand identified its first community spread case of COVID-19 since November 2020 on Sunday after a 56-year-old woman tested positive for the coronavirus strain that is thought to have originated in South Africa. The woman had tested positive for COVID-19 after leaving her two-week mandatory isolation following her return to the country from Europe on 30 December for work. By 31 January, there were 71 active cases in the country (69 in managed isolation and two community transmissions), bringing the total number of cases to 2,304 (1,948 confirmed and 356 probable). The total number of recovered had reached 2,208 while the death toll remained 25.
On 14 February, three community transmission cases were reported in Papatoetoe, Auckland: a mother, father and a daughter. By 28 February, there were 65 active cases in the country (54 in managed isolation and 11 community transmissions), bringing the total number to 2,376 (2,020 confirmed and 356 probable). Total number of recoveries reached 2,285 while the death toll reached 26.
COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand Transmission timeline articles: 12
Central government responses
The New Zealand Government responded to the global COVID-19 pandemic by establishing a National Health Coordination Centre (NHCC). In early February 2020, the Government barred entry to most travellers from China in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic that originated Wuhan. In addition, the Government sponsored several repatriation flights for returning citizens, residents, and their family members, beginning with Wuhan in February 2020.
In response to rising cases from overseas travel and within the community, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern closed the country's borders to non-citizens and non-residents on 19 March 2020. On 21 March, the Government introduced a four-tier alert level system, which placed much of the country's population and economy into lockdown from 25 March. Due to the success of the Government's elimination strategy in reducing the spread of COVID-19, lockdown restrictions on mobility, social gatherings and economic activities were progressively lifted on 28 April, 11 May, 25 May, and 8 June. The lifting of Alert Level 1 restrictions on 8 June eliminated social distancing and lockdown restrictions but retained border restrictions. On 13 May, the Government passed the controversial COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 which empowered law enforcement to enter homes and other premises without a warrant in order to enforce lockdown restrictions.
On 11 August, the Government reinstated lockdown restrictions following a second outbreak of community transmissions in Auckland. Due to the reduction in community transmissions, lockdown restrictions in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand were progressively eliminated on 30 August, 23 September, and 7 October 2020. In early November, the Government required travellers entering New Zealand to book a place in managed isolation prior to traveling to the country. In mid-December 2020, the Government announced plans to establish travel bubbles with the Cook Islands and Australia in 2021.
In early January 2021, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced that travellers from the United Kingdom and the United States would be required to take pre-departure tests prior to entering New Zealand from 15 January. On 11 January, the Government extended the pre-departure test requirement to most international travellers with the exception of those from Australia, Antarctica, and some Pacific Island states.
Following a community outbreak in South Auckland's Papatoetoe suburb on 14 February, the Government placed an Alert Level 3 lockdown on Auckland and an Alert Level 2 lockdown over the rest of the country until 17 February. On 17 February, Auckland's lockdown was lowered to Alert Level 2 while the rest of the country reverted to Alert Level 1. On 22 February, the Government announced that Auckland would revert to Alert Level 1 on 22 February. Following new community cases that were connected to the Auckland February cluster, the Government placed an Alert Level 3 lockdown on Auckland and an Alert Level 2 lockdown over the rest of the country commencing 28 February 2021 for the next seven days.
Local and regional governmental responses
On 21 March, several local body councils in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Lower Hutt and Porirua announced the closures of public facilities including swimming pools, libraries, recreation centres, community centres, art galleries, and museums.
On 24 March, the Auckland Council announced they were closing their campgrounds and Canterbury Regional Council announced that they would also close New Zealand Motor Caravan Association camping grounds within 48 hours.
Auckland Council announced on 14 April that it was applying for special project funding for a number of infrastructure projects that had been suspended due to lockdown.
On 15 April, several Otago mayors including mayor of Dunedin Aaron Hawkins, Central Otago District mayor Tim Cadogan, Queenstown Lakes District mayor Jim Boult, Clutha District mayor Bryan Cadogan, Waitaki District mayor Gary Kircher and Otago Regional Council chair Marian Hobbs were donating part of their salaries to local charities to assist with coronavirus pandemic relief efforts. In addition, several Dunedin City Council officials including chief executive Sue Bidrose announced that they were taking pay cuts to help their local communities cope with the effects of COVID-19.
On 10 July, the Auckland Council announced that it was going to eliminate 500 permanent jobs as a result of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 27 August, Auckland councillor Efeso Collins called for the Government to grant an amnesty to people who had overstayed their visas in order to encourage members of the Pasifika community to come forward for COVID-19 tests. The Health Minister Chris Hipkins has reassured the Pasifika community that the Government would not use any information collected during testing for immigration purposes. Collins urged Pacific community leaders, church leaders and health professionals to encourage overstayers to get tested for COVID-19 without fear of repercussions.
On 12 November, Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff and local health authorities have urged people in the Auckland CBD area to work from home after the discovery of a community transmission case who worked at the A-Z Collections shop on Auckland's High St in the city centre. Goff also criticised the store's owner for allegedly telling the employee to come to work while she was awaiting test results for her COVID-19 test. The store owner disputed Goff's account, explaining that the employee had called on Tuesday to say say she had a sore throat and would be visiting a doctor. The following day, the shop worker issued a statement criticising health officials who interviewed her for not providing a Chinese language translator, causing misinformation about her prior whereabouts, actions, and contacts. As a result of this miscommunication, her employer and their families had received abusive online messages.
Health sector responses
On 10 June, St John New Zealand, which provides ambulance and first aid services, announced that it would be laying off staff due to a $30 million deficit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The organisation had also tried to apply for the Government's wage subsidy scheme but was told that it was not eligible for it despite a 40% drop in income.
On 27 August, Pasifika GP Network member Dr Api Talemaitoga announced that the Government's Testing Strategy Group would seek to ensure that members of the Māori and Pasifika communities would have fair access to testing. These measures include offering free testing, mobile testing centers and clinicians who could translate. Health authorities have also sought to reassure members of these communities that they would not lose their jobs due to contracting COVID-19.
Up until March 2020, New Zealand ran a mixed economy – a free market with some state ownership and control. Although somewhat abruptly sidelined from their normal influence within the New Zealand economy, representatives of the business sector continued to feature in media reporting: lobbying against perceived discrepancies in various industries, publicising habitual evaluations such as business-confidence indicators and economic outlooks, and itching for an early return to "business as usual".
On 17 September 2020, New Zealand economy officially entered into a recession, with the country's gross domestic product contracting by 12.2% in the June quarter due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The retail, accommodation, hospitality, and transportation sectors were adversely affected by the international travel ban and a strict nationwide lockdown.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a substantial impact on New Zealand society, with significant implications for education, faith communities, holidays, Māori, mass gatherings, sports and recreational activities. Reports about the spread of COVID-19 led to a demand for face masks and hand sanitisers, as well as panic buying at supermarkets.
Following the spread of COVID-19 at several schools, the Government closed all schools, early childhood centers and universities on 23 March as part of the implemention of a nationwide lockdown. In addition, On 13 May, the end-of-year high school National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) external exams were postponed to mind November 2020. Several universities drew criticism for continuing to charge rent to students who had returned home to their families.
In response to the entry of COVID-19 into New Zealand, several faith communities announced that they would be suspending or reducing public gatherings in responds to the Government's ban on gatherings with more than 100 people. Due to the closure of butcheries under Alert Level 4, members of the Muslim community faced difficulty accessing halal food. When the lockdown level was first lowered to Alert Level 2 on 14 May, religious gatherings were initially limited to ten persons, which drew criticism from the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ), Catholic bishops, and Bishop Brian Tamaki of Destiny Church. Following criticism, the Government raised the limit on religious services from ten to 100 persons, allowing many faith communities to resume mass gatherings. In September 2020, Christian leaders Pacific Response Coordination Team chairman Pakilau Manase Lua and Wesleyan Methodist minister Frank Ritchie expressed concern about misinformation relating to COVID-19 circulating among New Zealand congregants attending churches with links to conservative evangelical and Pentecostal churches in the United States.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Māori communities in the Northland, East Cape, and Bay of Plenty regions of the North Island established road blocks to limit the spread of the virus. These checkpoints generated some communal tensions and were considered unauthorised by the Government and New Zealand Police, which challenged their authority. Following a new community outbreak in Auckland in late January 2021, Northland Māori including Reuben Taipari and veteran politician Hone Harawira established an unauthorised checkpoint, which was shut down by the police.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mass gatherings were discouraged to comply with social distancing measures to combat the virus. In response, the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association suspend all ANZAC Day service and red poppy collections for 2020. Following the killing of George Floyd in May 2020 which sparked global protests, Black Lives Matter protests were held in several major centers including Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in early June 2020. These protests were criticised by several health and political figures including Dr. Siouxsie Wiles, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, and ACT Party leader David Seymour for flouting social distancing restrictions. In addition, anti-lockdown protests occurred between August and September 2020.
Due to border and social distancing restrictions caused by COVID-19, several sports and recreational events including the Super Rugby season and the 2020 Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow were suspended in mid-March 2020.
Following a new community outbreak in South Auckland in mid February 2021, the Halberg Awards were postponed to comply with Alert Level 3 restrictions on mass gatherings. In addition, Napier's Art Deco Festival and Auckland's Gay Pride parade were cancelled. Auckland's Splore festival was postponed to 26-28 March 2021.
Left-wing blogger Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury has advocated that the Government declare an amnesty for overstayers and provide compensation payments to people unable to work from home in order to help the Pacific Islander communities in South Auckland.
On 8 September 2020, the Secretary-General of the World Health Organization Dr Tedros Adhanom praised New Zealand's response to the COVID-19 pandemic alongside several other countries including Cambodia, Japan, South Korea, Rwanda, Senegal, Spain, and Vietnam.
On 28 October, Hoover Institution senior fellow Victor Davis Hanson criticised Prime Minister Ardern's requirement that people undergoing managed isolation quarantine be tested as a condition for leaving on Fox News's The Ingraham Angle while the show's host Laura Ingraham likened MIQ facilities to coronavirus "quarantine camps". Hanson and Laura Ingraham drew coverage from New Zealand media commentators including The Spinoff's Alex Braee, who compared their remarks to former United Kingdom Independence Party politician Suzanne Evans' remarks likening New Zealand's lockdown policies to Nazi Germany. Newshub's Jamie Ensor responded that Ingraham's comments lacked context, explaining that the camps were actually lavish hotels and motels.
COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand Responses articles: 69
Repatriation flights and border control
New Zealand citizens and residents
In early February 2020, eleven New Zealanders were reported to be on board the cruise ship Diamond Princess, which had been quarantined by Japanese authorities in Yokohama after passengers were confirmed to have COVID-19. By 20 February, four New Zealand passengers had tested positive for the virus and were being treated in Japan. The remaining six passengers returned to New Zealand via an evacuation flight being organised by the Australian government. Upon arriving in Auckland, they were quarantined at a military facility at Whangaparaoa.
In February 2020, the New Zealand Government used a chartered Air New Zealand flight to evacuate 193 passengers from Wuhan, China, including 54 New Zealand citizens, 44 permanent residents, 35 Australians, and several Pacific Islands nationals. 35 Australian passengers were transferred to an Australian flight, while the remaining 157 passengers were quarantined in a military facility at Whangaparaoa for 14 days. The passengers were released on 19 February.
On 19 March, Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced that the New Zealand Government was considering more mercy flights to evacuate New Zealanders stranded overseas in response to the spread of the pandemic to Europe, North America and other international locations. On 24 March, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged New Zealanders abroad to return home with while recognising that many will not be able to return home due to the disruption of international travel. Peters urged New Zealanders stranded overseas to considering sheltering "in place". He estimated there were 80,000 New Zealanders stranded overseas, of whom 17,000 had registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's "Safe Travel" programme.
On 28 March, it was reported that about 24 New Zealanders were stranded in Peru because they could not board a chartered Australian flight due to changes in Australian transit rules requiring overseas travellers to transit on the same day as their arrival.
On 29 March 108 New Zealanders were allowed to disembark from the cruiser liner Vasco Da Gama, which had been berthed at Fremantle, Western Australia, for two weeks. Following the cancellation of the cruise, the passengers had been stranded aboard the cruise ship for two weeks. The passengers were repatriated to Auckland on an Air New Zealand flight.
On 30 March, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced, following negotiations with Prime Minister Ardern, that New Zealanders in Australia, who held a Special Category Visa, would be eligible for AU$1,500 fortnightly payments as hardship assistance. Many New Zealanders had been forced to return after being unable to access Australian Centrelink payments.
On 6 April 2020, Peters announced that the Government had organised a mercy flight to rescue New Zealanders stranded in Peru. The flight will depart from Lima, with an added domestic connection in Cusco. Private tour operators Viva Expeditions and Chimu Adventures will also help transport New Zealanders to the appropriate pickup points. New Zealand authorities have also managed to gain permission from Chilean authorities to transit through Santiago. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, there are 22,000 New Zealanders stranded overseas who have registered with MFAT's Safe Travel.
On 10 April, the Uruguay government announced that it would be repatriating 16 New Zealanders and 96 Australians who had been stranded aboard the Antarctic cruise ship Greg Mortimer in the La Plata river near Montevideo since 27 March. The passengers would be flown from Montevideo to Melbourne. On 12 April, the mercy flight carrying 16 New Zealanders landed in Melbourne. Thirteen of the New Zealanders boarded a New Zealand Government-chartered flight to Auckland while three New Zealanders, who were resident in Australia, stayed behind.
On 15 April, a Government-chartered LATAM Airlines flight carrying New Zealanders who were stranded in Peru arrived back in Auckland. Other passengers who had been scattered in Brazil and Chile were able to board when the flight transited through Santiago. Passengers were to be quarantined in Auckland per new quarantine requirements. The mercy flight carried 60 Australians and three New Zealanders. One New Zealand woman elected to stay behind with her Peruvian husband after he failed to meet Immigration New Zealand's partnership visa requirements. On 21 April, it was reported that a 49-year-old man, who was meant to be on the Peruvian mercy flight, had died in Cusco from COVID-19, making him the first New Zealander recorded to have died from it overseas.
On 15 April, it was announced that Fiji Airways would be flying stranded New Zealanders from Fiji to Auckland on 17 April. The return flight would leave the same day, carrying Fijians back to Nadi.
On 13 April, Peters announced that the New Zealand Government was in discussions with airlines and international partners to bring New Zealanders stranded in India back to New Zealand. On 21 April, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced that the Government was repatriating 1,600 New Zealanders from India to managed isolation in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.
On 21 June, it was reported that 4,272 people who had returned from overseas travel were being housed in 20 managed isolation facilities across New Zealand, including 18 in Auckland and Christchurch and two in Rotorua. These facilities are being run by the National Emergency Management Agency. Several returnees complained about lack of communication from ministry officials about their quarantine destinations, including several who had been transferred from Auckland to Rotorua without any prior notice. On 21 June 232 people had returned from Australia and entered into quarantine. That same day, it was reported that a man who had returned from the United Kingdom had been trapped in limbo at Grand Mercure Hotel in Auckland after health authorities lost his COVID-19 test.
On 12 July, it was reported that the Government would be establishing a special isolation facility for returning New Zealanders who had been deported from Australia after the Australian Government resumed its deportation policy in late June 2020. According to 1 News, 19 New Zealanders are scheduled to return from various Australian detention detentions in the coming week via a chartered flight. By 28, July at least 30 deportees had arrived from Australia on two chartered flights in July. They were quarantined for 14 days at the Ramada hotel in Auckland.
In September, Sehion Tours and Travels has organised several chartered flights from southern India to Auckland using a Singapore Airlines A350-900. Besides transporting New Zealand citizens and residents, the company is also repatriating Indian nationals who want to return to India.
In late December 2020, Radio New Zealand reported that several New Zealanders living in the United Kingdom were seeking help from the Government to return home due to travel restrictions caused by a new strain of COVID-19, which had forced the British Government to reimpose lockdown restrictions and other countries to bar entry to travellers from the UK.
Foreign travellers and temporary visa holders
On 24 March, the New Zealand Government automatically extended all temporary visas with an expiry date of 2 April to 9 July 2020 inclusive who were in New Zealand on 2 April 2020 until 25 September 2020. Travellers whose visas expire before 1 April are allowed to remain if they are unable to leave the country. On 25 March 2020, the British and German governments announced that they will be sending mercy flights to repatriate stranded citizens in New Zealand, many of whom are tourists. The German government has made arrangements for sending mercy flights to Auckland and Christchurch. The British Government has made arrangements for British nationals to transit through Singapore during their return from New Zealand. There have been reports of British travellers being charged high airfares by airlines. The British High Commission and consular services in Wellington have been criticised for closing their operations the previous week.
On 31 March, Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Kamaruddin Jaffar stated that 153 Malaysians with return tickets were stranded in New Zealand but unable to return to Malaysia due to travel restrictions and disruption caused by the pandemic.
In early April, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, following communications with foreign governments including Denmark, announced that foreign nationals returning home would be classified as engaging in essential travel able to travel domestically (whether by air or land) when they have a confirmed and scheduled international flight out of New Zealand, subject to Government requirements. In addition, foreign governments would be allowed to evacuate their citizens in charter flights provided they satisfied New Zealand health requirements. To improve travel between New Zealand and Europe, the Government has also approved a second daily flight between Doha to Auckland by Qatar Airways.
As of 10 April, German airliner Lufthansa has flown 16 repatriation flights from Auckland International Airport to Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, evacuating 6,700 passengers. On 14 April, it was reported that Qatar Airways would be flying a Boeing 777-300 via Perth to pick up stranded French nationals in Christchurch before returning to Paris.
On 13 May, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters urged migrant workers who were out of work to go home, stating that New Zealand taxpayers could not afford to support them. Peters confirmed that 50,000 migrant workers had already returned to their home countries after the New Zealand Government made arrangements with embassies to organise repatriation flights for their nationals. According to a declassified official document, there were over 383,000 foreign nationals in New Zealand including students, migrant workers, and partners or dependents of workers as of 30 March.
According to a 1 News report on 17 May, there are over 1,000 Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme workers in New Zealand, mostly from the Pacific Islands. Pacific Response Coordination Team chairman Pakilau Manase Lua has stated that about 1,000 Tongan seasonal workers in NZ are facing financial difficulty due to the loss of work caused by the economic upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On 3 June, Radio New Zealand reported that half of the Government's $30 million emergency welfare fund had been spent over a month, with many of the recipients including stranded migrant workers and foreigners who were unable to return to their countries due to the disruption of international travel. Under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act, financial assistance for food, transport, clothing and accommodation is available to anyone regardless of their citizenship. Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare has confirmed that there have been 4,500 requests for emergency assistance from the Otago region with an unknown number from the Auckland Region. Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has stated that the "labour market test" will be applied on foreign workers once their work visas have expired.
On 7 July, the Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway extended 16,500 Essential Skills and Work to Residence workers with visas by six months and extended the 12-month stand-down period for migrant workers who were going to leave in 2020 until February 2021. This stand-down period shift would benefit about 600 lower-skilled visa holders including dairy workers.
On 10 July, the Government announced that overseas-based victims of the Christchurch mosque shootings would be granted special border passes and financial help in order to travel to New Zealand for the duration of the gunman's sentencing, which begins on 24 August.
On 22 July, Radio New Zealand reported that a six year old Korean child had been unable to attend school since his father, a temporary visa holder, was unable to return to New Zealand due to lockdown travel restrictions. Under New Zealand law, international students under the age of ten are unable to attend schools without the presence of a parent or guardian. Despite lobbying by National MP Melissa Lee on behalf of the family, Education Minister Chris Hipkins declined to intervene, citing policy issues.
On 9 September, the Government announced that it would be increasing the number of categories of non-citizens and non-residents eligible for the new border exception. These include those holding a job or operating a business in New Zealand; holding a work to residence or essential skills visa, have departed New Zealand on or after 1 December 2019; and have lived in New Zealand for at least two years with a residence or work visa. Partners who are Australian citizens or from visa-waiver countries will also be eligible to apply for border exceptions. In addition, those who have been unable to enter the country to activate their residency visa or unable to return before their residency visa expires will receive a reprieve.
By 12 October, it was reported that 10,400 individuals had been granted exemptions for critical and essential work to enter New Zealand.
On 13 November, it was reported that Prime Minister Ardern had granted a business exemption for a British family to enter New Zealand following the death of their son Eddie in French Polynesia in April 2020. The family had initially been denied entry into New Zealand but the Prime Minister had sought a review of the case after the Weekend Herald reported on the family's situation on 10 October.
On 21 December, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi announced a six-month extension for employer-assisted work and working holiday visa holders along with their partners and children in order to address the country's labour shortage. In addition, a 12-month stand-down period for low-paid Essential Skills visa holders working in New Zealand for three years will also be suspended until January 2022.
COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand Repatriation flights and border control articles: 36
On 4 May 2020, a High Court judge allowed a man who had travelled from the United Kingdom to visit his dying father, overruling the Government's strict lockdown orders including a 14-day quarantine period for all overseas travellers. In response, Prime Minister Ardern asked Health Minister David Clark to review 24 cases where health authorities blocked requests by individuals to see their dying relatives on health grounds. As a result of the Government's review, a woman was granted exemption from the mandatory 14-day quarantine to visit her 59 year old terminally ill mother.
On 19 August, the Wellington High Court ruled that the Government's message to stay at home at the start of the Alert Level 4 lockdown for nine days between 26 March and 3 April was justified but unlawful and contrary to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. A law change on 3 April made the lockdown legal. The High Court's ruling had come in response to a legal challenge mounted by lawyer Andrew Borrowdale. The Attorney General David Parker has defended the Government's handling of the lockdown and not ruled out an appeal against the ruling.
COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand Court rulings articles: 3
In late August 2020, Stuff reported that several businessmen and former politicians (including former National MP Ross Meurant and former National Party and ACT party leader Don Brash) had sought to import Russia's insufficiently tested Gam-COVID-Vac (also known as Sputnik V) vaccine into New Zealand. They had established a company called Covax-NZR Limited and filed paperwork through the Russian Embassy to establish supply and distribution arrangements to import the vaccine. University of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris warned that using untested vaccines could hurt global efforts to develop safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19.
On 12 October 2020, the Government signed an agreement with Pfizer and BioNTech to buy 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines, which is enough for 750,000 people. The COVID-19 Vaccine Strategy Task Force is also negotiating with other pharmaceutical companies to provide vaccines. In addition, the Government has established a fund of $66.3 million to support a COVID-19 immunisation programme as soon as the vaccine is ready.
On 17 December, Prime Minister Ardern announced that the New Zealand Government had purchased two more vaccines for New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and its Pacific partners Samoa, Tonga, and Tuvalu from the pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Novavax. The Government had purchased 7.6 million doses (enough for 3.8 million people) from AstraZeneca and 10.72 million doses (enough for 5.36 million people) from Novavax. Both vaccines require two doses to be administered. Both vaccines will be free for New Zealanders. The Government had already purchased 750,000 courses from Pfizer/BioNTech and 5 million from Janssen Pharmaceutica.
On 3 February 2021, Prime Minister Ardern has provisionally approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in New Zealand. The initial batches of the vaccine are scheduled to arrive in late March 2021, with frontline workers and the vulnerable given priority.
On 10 February, the New Zealand Government formally authorised the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use in New Zealand. The vaccine will be limited to people aged 16 years and over.
On 20 February, 100 nurses became the first people in New Zealand to receive the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Healthcare workers, essential workers and those most at risk will be vaccinated in the second quarter of the year. The general population will be vaccinated in the second half of the year.
On 8 March, Prime Minister Ardern confirmed that the Government had secured an additional 8.5 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which means there will be enough to vaccinate all New Zealanders.
|Order||Priority group||Number eligible (estimated)||Progress|
|1a||Border/MIQ workforce||15,000||In Progress|
|1b||Families and household contacts||40,000|
|2a||Frontline healthcare workers (non-border) who could be exposed to COVID-19 while providing care||57,000|
|2b||Frontline healthcare workers who may expose vulnerable people to COVID-19||183,000|
|2b||At-risk people living in settings with a high risk of transmission or exposure to COVID-19||234,000|
|3a||People aged 75+||317,000|
|3b||People aged 65+||432,000|
|3c||People with underlying health conditions or disabilities||730,000|
|4||The remainder of the population||2 million|