Most overseas arrivals at Auckland Airport were still walking into New Zealand with no health checks on Sunday, despite new rules which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as "the toughest border restrictions of any country in the world".

Only one out of 11 international passengers who spoke to the Herald on Sunday afternoon had his temperature checked in the arrivals hall - Peter Entwistle, a British tourist who had stated on his arrival card that he had visited farms in Cambodia and Thailand.

Others who arrived from India, Myanmar, Tahiti and Australia were surprised that they were allowed to walk straight through just hours before the "toughest border restrictions" were due to come into force at 1am on Monday.

Ardern said on Saturday that visitors from all countries except the Pacific Islands would have to "self-isolate" for 14 days from today.

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British tourist Peter Entwistle, pictured with his godmother Cathy Shearer and her children, was the only overseas arrival who told the Herald his temperature was checked. Photo / Simon Collins
British tourist Peter Entwistle, pictured with his godmother Cathy Shearer and her children, was the only overseas arrival who told the Herald his temperature was checked. Photo / Simon Collins

However Board of Airline Representatives director Justin Tighe-Umber told reporters at the airport that both New Zealanders and overseas visitors would be allowed to travel onwards on domestic flights before they had to go into isolation at their intended destination in New Zealand.

New bride Deepa Shetty was surprised not to have any health check when she arrived at Auckland Airport to meet husband Ajith Shetty. Photo / Simon Collins
New bride Deepa Shetty was surprised not to have any health check when she arrived at Auckland Airport to meet husband Ajith Shetty. Photo / Simon Collins

Ajith Shetty, who was meeting his bride, Deepa Shetty, after they married in India last year, said his wife was screened in Singapore on her way to New Zealand but was not tested at Auckland Airport.

"It's really bad, they should have," he said.

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Deepa Shetty, who wore a mask throughout the journey, said most other passengers were also wearing masks, and passengers were screened automatically at Singapore.

"Maybe they should have screened every passenger coming in, just for the safety of New Zealanders," she said.

Myanmar missionaries Helen and Wayne Harray
Myanmar missionaries Helen and Wayne Harray"walked straight through" on arrival at Auckland Airport. Photo / Simon Collins

Myanmar missionaries Helen and Wayne Harray, who were also screened in Singapore, said they "walked straight through" at Auckland with no checks, but they were not worried.

"I don't think it's a big issue, to be honest," Helen Harray said. "I think the media make a lot more of it than they should."

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Gisborne doctor John Harvey and his wife Jacqui were concerned that they had to stand close together with about 2000 other people while they queued to get through Customs. Photo / Simon Collins
Gisborne doctor John Harvey and his wife Jacqui were concerned that they had to stand close together with about 2000 other people while they queued to get through Customs. Photo / Simon Collins

Dr John Harvey, a British doctor working as a locum in Gisborne, said he and his wife, Jacqui, were not tested when they arrived from a cruise out of Tahiti.

"One thing that does surprise me is that they have stopped using the e-passport thing, so that means you have 2000 people standing close together from all sorts of countries in the Customs hall, which doesn't seem very healthy to me," he said.

Many passengers arriving on Sunday had changed their travel plans to get home before the self-isolation requirement took effect.

Jo and Ian Morgan changed their flights from Western Australia to get into New Zealand on Sunday so that they can attend their son's wedding. Photo / Simon Collins
Jo and Ian Morgan changed their flights from Western Australia to get into New Zealand on Sunday so that they can attend their son's wedding. Photo / Simon Collins

Western Australian couple Jo and Ian Morgan said they rushed to get an early flight to make sure they didn't miss their son's wedding, due to take place in Whangārei on March 28.

"They are going ahead with the wedding even though about 10 people from Australia won't be coming now," the couple said.

Te Puke family Mark and Jacqui Deacon with daughter Jodi, 9, and son Jacob, 7, paid an extra $1700 to get an early flight home. Photo / Simon Collins
Te Puke family Mark and Jacqui Deacon with daughter Jodi, 9, and son Jacob, 7, paid an extra $1700 to get an early flight home. Photo / Simon Collins

Te Puke family Mark and Jacqui Deacon and their children Jodi, 9, and Jacob, 7, paid an extra $1700 to return early after attending Mark's father's funeral in Brisbane.

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"I was going to go to the lawyer tomorrow to sort out some things, but we can't afford to be off work for two weeks," he said.

The family were booked on Air New Zealand but could not get any response from the NZ airline after waiting on the phone for an hour, so booked a Qantas flight and will seek a refund from Air NZ later.

Another couple, who asked not to be named, flew from Auckland to the Gold Coast on Saturday for a week-long holiday, but turned around and flew home the next day after Ardern announced the two-week isolation restriction.

"I'm a doctor with patients to see. I can't be stuck in isolation for two weeks," the man said.

The couple rang their NZ-based travel agent and were amazed she had to spend more than two hours looking for a new flight for them on Saturday night.

"There was absolutely nothing available on Air NZ," they said.

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Government helplines were also overwhelmed by callers. Christchurch public relations consultant David Lynch said he rang the Healthline number 0800 358 5453 eight times over the weekend seeking information for clients in the hospitality industry but could not get anyone to answer.

He finally talked to someone on another Government helpline for "large scale emergencies", 0800 779 997, but it wasn't much help.

"I said, I have colleagues coming in from overseas, so they have to declare to the taxi driver that they are self-isolating?" he said.

"I just spoke to one person at the Government helpline who said they were not certain what the requirements were for people flying into the country and using public transport."

The Ministry of Health's advice to overseas arrivals is: "Don't use public transport, taxis or similar transport methods during your 14 day period. You can only use public transport after you arrive in New Zealand for the sole purpose of returning to your home, but cannot use it after that. You can use your own transport means (car, bike etc) whenever you wish."

The Government's Safe Travel website advises all New Zealanders to "avoid all non-essential travel overseas".

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