When we open our borders as envisaged with a transtasman bubble we will need to make extra sure our onshore defences are solid.
This broadly includes border protection and community protection. Clearly we still have holes in the border, otherwise we wouldn't have had a further eight to 10 community outbreaks from August last year.
This can be improved, for example, with more convenient saliva testing of border staff and returnees and consideration of purpose-built quarantine facilities away from main centres.
Our community response also needs improvement, with the recent Valentine's Day outbreak pointing at miscommunication and failed contact tracing.
While there is reasonable visibility of permanent onshore MIQ facilities as part of our border response, what is less clear is the number of people who have isolated on waterborne craft offshore.
It turns out that 343 people have isolated on boats or ships, with Northland having the most and then Auckland.
Of the 343 people listed in the table shown here, 80 were transferred by Customs to a managed isolation facility to complete their isolation period, 105 completed isolation on a cruising yacht and 158 completed isolation on a superyacht.
The criteria for isolation on ships and boats have seemed murky against a common argument that they have been at sea for two weeks or more and been isolating anyway.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
One wonders how isolation on boats is monitored by DHBs and how the returnees are serviced for food and consumables.
I asked the minister about monitoring costs and he replied that district health boards were unable to separate costs for this.
On the positive side, ship-side isolation has freed up 263 MIQ slots and from what I understand it has prevented seriously sick people from being exposed to coronavirus in MIQ.
There is also likely to be an economic benefit for high-value individuals who eventually make their way onshore and contribute to our economy.
Looking at the significant numbers, there are some questions to be asked, considering last year there were boats seeking compassionate safety from Pacific cyclones in New Zealand harbours that were turned away, yet permission for waterborne isolation increased the closer we got to the America's Cup.
It would be interesting to know the nationality and purpose of the yacht and superyacht waterborne returnees who did make it. Clear and consistent policies will help with dilemmas of this kind.