The CEO of Air New Zealand is taking a wait and see approach following the changes to Covid restrictions announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday morning.
From April 4, all vaccine mandates will be removed for workforces, except for health and disability, aged care, Corrections and border workforces.
Ardern made the announcement from Parliament on Wednesday† laying out the “next set of changes to our Covid settings in New Zealand”.
“While we have been successful, it has also been bloody hard,” Ardern said, looking back at the last two years.
Speaking prior to the announcement, Greg Foran said if there were to be rule changes, there would be a process of assessment, although “there have been some discussions internally with our team about what that means”.
He said the airline has “a number of things in place” to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
“All of these things are up for discussion as Omicron makes its way through. And it’s a matter of timing and it’s a matter of doing what’s right for our staff and our customers and it’s something we are thinking about all the time,” Foran said.
He told RNZ’s Checkpoint the airline would look to bring back all the staff it had let go due to reduced flights from the pandemic, but unvaccinated pilots would not return just yet.
“Not at this point, until we change our policies on that and that’s something that we’re considering.
“We’ve got our international vaccination policy in place where you need to be vaccinated to fly on an Air New Zealand plane.”
He said 4500 Air New Zealanders lost their jobs amid the pandemic, after it lost 95% of its revenue.
Following Ardern’s announcement, an Air New Zealand spokesperson told 1News that “we don’t have any updates on changes to these settings at this time.”
“We are continuously reviewing our policies to ensure we are providing the best health and safety protocols to keep our customers and people safe.”
A border change for unvaccinated Kiwi citizens and those who are eligible to travel to New Zealand was announced on the MIQ website on Friday March 18, explaining those passengers can now enter the country without needing to go into MIQ or to self-isolate.
The catch however, is that most airlines won’t allow the unvaccinated on board. Whether our national carrier will also make amendments to their rules is up in the air.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker told 1News on Wednesday he’s “pleased the airlines won’t carry unvaccinated people” and said he doesn’t agree with the Government’s rule change.
“I disagree with the Government’s position here, for the foreseeable future you don’t want to add any unvaccinated people arriving from anywhere.”
He said skipping MIQ isn’t the problem.
“The big issue is you are adding to the pool of the unvaccinated which increases risk and has real consequences for New Zealand.”
The University of Otago professor said he hopes Air New Zealand retains its stance at this stage of the pandemic.
“There’s two reasons why countries don’t want unvaccinated people turning up: They are more likely to bring the virus in with them and because we have such high transmission in New Zealand, it’s just adding to the number of unvaccinated.”
He said even though Auckland may have reached a peak in the outbreak, other parts of the country are yet to follow.
“They are still peaking in the South Island, we still have a way to go.”
Baker said he still expected a lot of people to become infected with Covid.
“We don’t want any more unvaccinated people in the country than we do have at the moment.
“I mean it adds to the burden of healthcare and may ultimately cost some people their lives.
“People think the decision not to get vaccinated will not affect anyone else but that’s not the case – the behavior of people affects us all.”