Saturday, December 4

Covid-19 Roundup: Christchurch Cases, MIQ Changes, and Travel Vaccine Mandates

Changes have been made to MIQ, Christchurch remains at level 2 despite the two community cases, but it has led to a conversation about the requirement for vaccines for domestic travel.

Covid-19 Summary for October 28, 2021

Photo: RNZ

Christchurch will remain at alert level 2 despite the city having two positive cases of Covid-19.

Both cases live together in the suburb of Bishopdale.

One of the cases was allowed to go to Auckland to care for the children and tested negative before returning to Christchurch.

The second case is a truck driver who completed deliveries in the Christchurch area and some trips to North Canterbury.

They both felt bad last week and were evaluated two days ago.

They tested positive for Covid last night.

Three households with nine close contacts have been identified.

Today there were 89 new community cases of Covid-19: 83 in Auckland, four in Waikato and two in Canterbury.

MIQ changes

The government has announced a three-part review of Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ).

Beginning November 8, dual-vaccinated travelers from low-risk Pacific countries (Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Tokelau) will be able to skip MIQ.

Starting November 14, returnees will only have to spend seven days at MIQ and three days at home. With tests on day 0, day 3 and day 9.

In early 2022, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said more travelers could isolate themselves at home.

He said it was time to rethink how the country handled the border because vaccination rates were leading to fewer people testing positive for MIQ.

Hipkins expected the first two changes to free up an additional 1,500 rooms per month, although some would be reserved for community cases.

Some vaccines received abroad now recognized

The government has recognized border workers inoculated with vaccines other than Pfizer.

Three vaccines administered abroad, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen, are now allowed for jobs that require inoculation against Covid-19, such as MIQ personnel, ports and airline crews.

Health officials say that anyone who has already received a dose of Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca abroad should have a second dose of Pfizer.

Border workers vaccinated with Janssen do not need an extra dose of Pfizer.

Vaccination requirements for domestic travel

The government is considering requiring some travelers to be vaccinated to fly between regions, but warns there are complications to be aware of.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that decision was complicated, noting that the person who traveled from Auckland to Christchurch had returned home.

“We’ve considered it and haven’t ruled it out yet, but you can see the complexity … we don’t take vaccine mandates lightly, that would be a situation where you need a vaccine so someone can go home.”

Hipkins said Control that requiring vaccination for those traveling across the Auckland border is “certainly an issue under discussion.”

It couldn’t be done immediately, he said, as there were goods that had to be moved in and out of the region.

National Party Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop said the party’s position was that rapid antigen testing before flights should be combined with allowing fully vaccinated travelers to cross all alert level limits.

Air New Zealand is analyzing whether vaccination certificates should be mandatory for domestic travel.

All passengers on its international flights must be fully vaccinated as of next February.

Board chair Therese Walsh said at its annual meeting that the possibility of a similar requirement for domestic travel is “on the table” for discussion.

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