An Auckland man has been left "heartbroken" after his partner was denied passage home when our country tightened its borders to fight the spread of Covid-19.
Onehunga's Alex Goncalves, a New Zealand citizen, says he was told by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) he would need to fly to the United Kingdom to physically escort his English partner home from vacation.
"That's insane, the Government is urging people to not leave New Zealand," Goncalves told the Herald.
His partner, Luke O'Hara, was due to fly home from Manchester later this month but in light of the developing situation, he moved his flight forward to March 19 at a cost of about $3000.
• Covid 19 coronavirus: How virus overwhelmed Italy with almost 5000 deaths in a month
• Coronavirus: ICU overload risks 'thousands' more NZ deaths - model
• Coronavirus: Auckland woman Maree Glading disappointed in checks at international arrivals
That same day Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the country the border would be closed at 11.59pm, except to returning New Zealanders.
Their partners, legal guardians or any dependent children who were travelling with them may also return, she said.
Home in New Zealand, Goncalves wrote a letter to support his partner at the border in England, reiterating O'Hara held a valid work visa based on their relationship.
The letter also reassured authorities that they had a plan in place to strictly follow the quarantine rules.
"I will personally pick Luke up from Auckland International Airport upon his arrival and we will both remain in self-isolation for at least 14 days as per the recommendation of the New Zealand Ministry of Health as well as Immigration New Zealand," the letter read.
But Goncalves said as his partner was turned away, Goncalves was repeatedly told by INZ he would need to fly over and accompany him back.
"They said the only way for him to come back was me going to the UK to pick him up, which is now totally impossible because the airlines will stop their services as well."
Goncalves had signed a petition in support of the border closure for the country's own protection but did not imagine things would play out like this.
Stuck in England, O'Hara has lost his job in Auckland while Goncalves is facing reduced wages.
"He is devastated. All he wants to do is come home," Goncalves said.
"I feel heartbroken. I feel betrayed by this country."
Goncalves, who has lived in New Zealand for more than a decade, said both he and his partner called this country home.
"And now he is not allowed to come back home," he said.
"With everything that is going on, I am going to be by myself. I don't have my support - my best friend - with me."
Goncalves said he did not have any other family members in New Zealand.
What had happened was "wrong", he said, a blow dealt at a time when many across the country were going to be under financial pressure.
"I cannot pay rent by myself. Now everything is going to rely on me. And actually I don't think I will be able to afford everything by myself.
"My life is now completely on hold and I don't know what's going to happen."
An INZ spokeswoman said the current travel restrictions had been put in place by the Government based on advice from the Ministry of Health.
"Due to the travel restrictions decided by the Government, New Zealand citizens, permanent residents, residents with valid travel conditions and their immediate family (partner or spouse, legal guardian and dependent children under the age of 24) can still come to New Zealand.
"Immediate family must have a valid visa or NZeTA and travel with the New Zealand citizen or resident family member on the same flight to New Zealand."
Australian citizens and permanent residents who normally live in New Zealand can also return to New Zealand, she said.
Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis by INZ for:
• Humanitarian reasons
• Health and other essential workers
• Citizens of Samoa and Tonga for essential travel to New Zealand
• The holder of a visitor visa who is the partner or dependant of a temporary work or student visa holder and who normally lives in New Zealand and is currently in New Zealand.
"Those with a valid New Zealand visa who think they may be eligible for an exception are asked to contact their airline or travel provider."
Ardern announced yesterday that Aotearoa is now at level 3 on the Covid-19 alert system with level 4 - the highest alert - to follow at 11.59pm tomorrow.
Schools, childcare centres and universities will be closed, while all non-essential businesses or services must also shut by the deadline. Kiwis should stay at home unless visiting an essential service.
Ardern said the strict measures will save tens of thousands of lives.