Megan Woods, the minister overseeing managed isolation and quarantine, says authorities have spoken to other airlines besides Air New Zealand to try and manage capacity in quarantine facilities.
Ms Woods told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning authorities have spoken to Emirates and Singapore Airlines, as well as Air New Zealand, about limiting the number of people in flights. She said the airlines had agreed to stop selling new tickets for flights to New Zealand from overseas the next three weeks.
She said it was about removing volatility in numbers of people coming to New Zealand to manage the in-and-out flows of those in managed isolation and quarantine.
“We’re getting really tight and we can’t just keep standing up facilities,” she said.
“What we now have is certainty around our in-flow.”
She said the occupancy rate in facilities last night was more than 5700 of the 6000 available beds. In two weeks, maximum capacity is expected to increase to about 7000.
She said 27,000 people had gone through managed isolation since March, with 7000 of those in the past three weeks.
Ms Woods said because there are predictable 14-day cycles, the numbers of people coming in can be phased and move away from the current demand-driven system.
“Detailed work” is still being done to predict what the country’s peak capacity can be for managed isolation facilities, she said.
“This isn’t just about finding hotel beds. We’ve got to find hotel beds that meet certain criteria in the facilities they’re in.”
She said it is also about “having the health staff to put alongside [each facility]”.
Ms Woods said authorities were still looking into standing up new facilities in Queenstown and Dunedin.
Ms Woods told Q+A at the end of last month that Cabinet had received modelling which showed a four per cent growth each fortnight to the end of the year of people in managed isolation facilities. However, she said the figure “could change” depending on the severity of the virus overseas.
Outbound Air New Zealand services from New Zealand to international ports are not affected by the New Zealand Government restrictions. Domestic services are also not impacted.
“People who have already booked flights with Air New Zealand will still be able to enter New Zealand subject to availability of quarantine space,” Ms Woods said yesterday.