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'Isn't this a hole in the wall?' - New Air NZ boss grilled over Covid safety concerns of unrestricted workers

Air New Zealand's new chief executive was challenged today on whether current restrictions - or a lack thereof - for his workers upon returning to New Zealand amount to "a hole in the wall" for our border security.

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Breakfast host John Campbell challenged Greg Foran on why workers didn’t have to quarantine on arrival in NZ in some cases. Source: Breakfast

Greg Foran joined TVNZ1's Breakfast to discuss protocols in place for the company during the Covid-19 pandemic after Health Minister Chris Hipkins said yesterday he was not "100 per cent convinced" by them.

Currently, there are different arrangements from border staff when it comes to airline crews returning from overseas but Mr Foran said after speaking to Mr Hipkins yesterday, he was confident New Zealand was safe.

Read more:
Health Minister meets with Air NZ, says he's not '100% convinced' with air crew protocols

"We've been in close contact with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Transport all the way through this," Mr Foran said.

"The conversation yesterday [with Mr Hipkins] was really about just going through the process and procedures we have in place that we've worked up with them and making sure that we're as watertight as we can be.

"No system is completely watertight but you can certainly put in place lots of mitigating circumstances that can reduce the risk. And I think the results that we're seeing out of Air New Zealand in the last few months - we haven't had a Covid case since April - indicates things are going well."

However, Breakfast host John Campbell then challenged Mr Foran on what the procedures were, using a flight that has arrived from Shanghai, China, this morning as an example.

"Those crew [who arrived from China] are tested when they enter Shanghai, there is a nucleic test done there and then they have to be absolutely quarantined while they're in Shanghai very tightly. 

"When they get off the plane there, they're put on a separate vehicle, taken to a hotel as controlled by the Chinese government, they're put in their rooms for that period of time and then they're picked up by a bus at a time and come back.

"So when they get to New Zealand, they do not go into isolation from Shanghai."

That final statement left more questions than answers for Campbell, who questioned why Air New Zealand workers weren't isolated when they could've been exposed to the virus on the flight home from passengers.

"Isn't this a hole in the wall?"

Mr Foran said measures had been put in place, such as PPE for all workers while on flights, to reduce the risk.

But Mr Campbell challenged how a worker who had just gotten off a flight from Shanghai and could theoretically "go to the supermarket, go to McDonald's, go and have a coffee with their mates, fly domestically in New Zealand" was safe.

Mr Foran replied the protocols in place for employees upon their arrival back in New Zealand depended on where they were coming from.

"We look at the severity of the ports that we go to," Mr Foran said.

"America runs at a different level to what China does, Hong Kong operates different, Samoa is different, Australia is different... Each particular route is looked at and we work through with the authorities and we pull that together.

"The risks have been mitigated and the results speak for themselves."

Mr Foran added as an example that employees returning from the US - the most infected country in the world - they must go into self-isolation and be tested before they can work again. While in the US, employees are only allowed out of their selected hotel for one hour a day.

To finish the interview, Mr Campbell asked if "as well as possible, as well as practical and as well as ideal, Air New Zealand has got this right?"

Mr Foran replied that while protocols would be constantly reviewed in the coming months he was "confident" there were "pretty good procedures" in place.