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A quarantined father and husband will have to spend at least two weeks living in an Auckland hotel room before he can see his Gisborne family.

Shingo Suematsu, who arrived in Auckland from Brisbane yesterday afternoon, said he was grateful to be back in New Zealand and appreciated the measures the Government here was taking, but there was a lack of explanation about when and how he can be reunited with his family.

"I feel lucky to be home - in Australia it is getting so bad.


"But since arriving I have no idea how I can get to Gisborne, there has been no information provided."

New rules since the lockdown came into force at midnight on Wednesday mean anybody returning to New Zealand needs to self-isolate in the city they arrive in for two weeks.

Shingo Suematsu in his hotel quarantine room in Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Shingo Suematsu in his hotel quarantine room in Auckland. Photo / Supplied

Those without isolation plans in those cities were taken to hotels, or campervan parks, which have sprung up in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Domestic flights are also only available for essential service workers, which raises dilemmas for how people can return to their homes if they live far from the main centres.

Suematsu said his wife could drive the seven hours to collect him, but there is only meant to be one passenger in the car.

"We have no family in Gisborne where my son could stay during that period, so I don't really know what we are going to do."

Shingo Suematsu said he is looking forward to being reunited with his wife Anzhela Romanova and son Leo. Photo / File
Shingo Suematsu said he is looking forward to being reunited with his wife Anzhela Romanova and son Leo. Photo / File

Originally from Japan, Suematsu, 49, moved to New Zealand 31 years ago and settled in Gisborne, drawn by the amazing surfing.

He now has permanent resident status, and his wife and 8-year-old son - both citizens - live there.


Suematsu worked as a Japanese language teacher in Gisborne, before taking a teaching job in Townsville, Australia, last year, leaving his family in New Zealand and returning to visit during the holiday breaks.

He was due to end his contract at the end of this year but due to the inaction from the Australian government over Covid-19, Suematsu said it felt safer for him to return to New Zealand.

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"They are doing nothing. While most of the world is taking it seriously and going into lockdown Australia is arguing about if people should still be able to get haircuts. It is very scary, and lot of people are concerned.

"New Zealand is leading by example in its response."

He decided to cut his contract short and return to his family in New Zealand.

But Suematsu said he did not know the extent of the isolation rules in New Zealand until he was boarding, when officials announced once they arrived in Auckland they would need to remain there for a quarantine period and would not be able to fly domestically.

Once they arrived in Auckland, Suematsu said all passengers were checked for Covid-19 symptoms, and then if they showed no symptoms were either allowed to travel to their self-isolation locations if they'd pre-arranged them in Auckland, or they were taken to a hotel in Manukau.

Suematsu said he had no Covid-19 symptoms, but as he didn't live in Auckland he was taken to the hotel.

Recent arrivals at the quarantine hotel in Auckland. Photo / Supplied
Recent arrivals at the quarantine hotel in Auckland. Photo / Supplied

Despite all the staff and government officials being "very nice" there was a lack of clear information about what they were allowed to do.

When they arrived there was no enforced social distancing, and they were all packed onto a shuttle bus to bring them to the hotel.

When they were tested with a thermometer the nurse used the same one on each person, Suematsu said.

"I'm sure it was sterilised but it definitely made everybody nervous."

After being given his key he has had no further information about what to do.

"Now I am here I don't know how long I am supposed to be here, or how I can even get to Gisborne after the self-isolation period. Is it two weeks? Four weeks? And what do I do after that?

"They are saying that family can come and pick you up, but the rules are that you can only travel in the car with one passenger. We have no family in Gisborne where my son can go, so I don't know how my wife can come to get me, or how I can get to Gisborne after this period."

Having lived so long in Gisborne Suematsu said he "totally understands" the need to delay his return to contain the spread of Covid-19, but at this stage he said he was just after some clarity about when he could see his family.

The hotel was "very comfortable", he said, and three meals a day were provided.

"We are looked after very, very well and I really appreciate it. Some people were joking we'd end up in an army camp, so we are very lucky to be here and a big thank you to the New Zealand Government because it could be a lot worse."

Suematsu said he was really looking forward to seeing his wife Anzhela Romanova, originally from Russia, and son Leo and being back in the Gisborne community.

"We just love it there. My son speaks four languages - Japanese, Russian, English and Māori, he is half-Japanese and half-Russian with a New Zealand Māori heart. It is a really wonderful community there."

Meanwhile, hundreds of campervans have been set up by the Government in Auckland and Christchurch for those returning from overseas with nowhere to self-isolate.

Officials at Auckland Airport. Photo / Supplied
Officials at Auckland Airport. Photo / Supplied

At Auckland's ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane more than 100 campervans are set up in the carpark, which a Ministry of Health spokeswoman said was part of a "precautionary approach" to ensure travellers returning to New Zealand during Alert Level 4 were able to isolate.

Campervans and hotels will be used in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch as accommodation for people potentially returning to New Zealand from overseas during alert level 4, in a similar way to how the Whangaparāoa Reception Centre was used for people returning from Wuhan, China.

At the self-contained campervan sites, such as the ASB showgrounds and the Canterbury Agricultural Park, caterers will supply food, and people will be able to use online shopping.

In Auckland the campervans have not yet been used and remain as a precautionary option, the spokeswoman said.

"The safety of all staff at the campervan sites and hotels being used is one of the priorities - all staff will be issued with PPE and will have received training," she said.

On the first day of lockdown yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had one simple message for Kiwis - "New Zealanders should act as if they have Covid-19" and stay at home. "Breaking the rules could kill someone close to you."

Overseas arrivals with self-isolation plans would be checked on by the police and taken to quarantine facilities if they failed to self-isolate properly.

Quarantine is now mandatory for those who can no longer get to their home destination.

Almost 500,000 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus globally, with more than 22,000 deaths - 120,000 people have fully recovered.

In New Zealand, the number of confirmed and probably cases is now 368 with 85 new cases overnight - including probable cases.

One person is in intensive care in Nelson, on a ventilator. Their condition deteriorated in the past 24 hours and they had underlying health problems. The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website