Michael Baker says halting arrivals from India 'absolutely right thing to do'

Top Kiwi epidemiologist Michael Baker is backing the Government's announcement made this afternoon to suspend arrivals from India.

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The epidemiologist said returnees from red zones is New Zealand's biggest risk in the fight against Covid-19 currently. Source: 1 NEWS

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this afternoon entry into New Zealand for travellers from India is being temporarily suspended from April 11 due to the high number of returnees who are arriving with Covid-19.

Baker told 1 NEWS hours after the announcement the tough call had to be made.

"I think this is absolutely the right thing to do, we've been arguing for this for several months," Baker told 1 NEWS.

"This is a key moment for New Zealand - this is a new approach for protecting us and that is to limit or suspend travel to NZ from high-risk, red zone countries where the pandemic is poorly controlled."

Baker said returnees from high-risk countries like India is New Zealand's biggest threat in the fight against Covid-19 at the moment.

The move is helped by the recent confirmation of a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia, Baker added.

"It's much more efficient to reduce travel from red zone countries, protect our green zone and increase travel from Australia, which is exactly what we're doing," Baker said.

"I think suspending travel from the red zone countries for a sustained period may be the best way of protecting New Zealand."

When asked if it was fair to deny people entry to New Zealand, Baker said a broad look at the situation at present was needed.

"This is based on humanitarian needs - this is to protect vulnerable New Zealanders from a sustained outbreak in New Zealand and unfortunately, the threat is not going away. The pandemic is actually intensifying in some countries and we're also seeing more dangerous and infectious variants.

"We need to keep these infected cases out of New Zealand."

Ardern said in her announcement this afternoon the Government believes returnees are likely contracting the virus while travelling, which is why they felt the need to take action.

"Cases of the virus have been on the rise again internationally," she said. "We are starting to see this global trend mirrored locally," Ardern said, referring to the increase of Covid-19 cases in MIQ. 

"It is to the border we look to manage this global spike."

The temporary suspension comes as India reported a record daily surge in new coronavirus cases for the second time in four days yesterday.

The rise of 115,736 coronavirus cases reported yesterday tops the 103,844 infections reported Sunday. Fatalities rose by 630, the highest daily amount since November, driving the confirmed death toll in the country above 166,000.

Ardern said they had never previously suspended travel for New Zealand citizens or residents attempting to return - a move the Government continually distanced itself from previously throughout the pandemic. 

"That's why I do want to assure you this is not a permanent arrangement, but rather a temporary measure until we are able to better understand and manage the situation we are facing and see if there are ways to reduce the risk that actually travellers themselves are facing."

She said the Government was looking at how it manages high risk points of departure generally.