Air NZ's international air crew and airport staff will be tested for Covid-19 in an effort to minimise the possibility of importing the virus from overseas.

The announcement follows concerns that the border exemptions for air crew were a weakness that could open the door to an imported case of Covid-19.

Air crew have been exempt from the 14-day self-isolation and quarantine that have been imposed on all people coming into the country from overseas.

Yesterday Otago University epidemiologist Sir David Skegg repeated his concerns about the exemption to the Epidemic Response Committee, which he first raised three weeks ago.


Even if Covid-19 was eliminated, cases would still pop up occasionally, he said yesterday.

"They may be introduced by airline crew who are not required even to self-isolate. [The risk] was illustrated dramatically by a wedding in Bluff which has led to a cluster of 98 cases with two deaths so far."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there were no plans to quarantine aircrew for 14 days because that would create difficult work arrangements, but Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said that safety measures at the border were being reviewed "to make sure we are not importing any cases through that avenue".

This afternoon Air NZ released a statement saying they would test all international air crew and airport staff, starting this week, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health.

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"Last week Air New Zealand requested that the Ministry of Health consider a testing regime for asymptomatic international air crew and airport workers, following the Ministry's move to test asymptomatic people at supermarkets," Air NZ said in a statement.

"We've been working closely with the Ministry on how to increase the level of assurance that health measures undertaken to protect airline employees and passengers is effective.

"The Auckland District Health Board will carry out this testing. which will be rolled out as soon as possible this week. It will include pilots and cabin crew returning from international flights, as well as other customer facing airport workers."


The testing is not specific to Air New Zealand and other companies with employees in the airport environment will also be offered testing.

There are 30 Air NZ staff who have tested positive for Covid-19, 25 of whom have recovered. The remaining five are recovering at home.

Not all of these cases are linked to employment at Air NZ, and not all are air crew.

Out of around 3000 Air NZ cabin crew, 27 have been identified as being a close contact on the basis they worked on a flight that included a passenger with a confirmed or probable case. All of these have now have completed their self-isolation without illness.

"Our medical team are actively managing all cases, providing assistance to those impacted and advice to our employees on how to minimise the risk of contracting Covid-19," Air NZ said in a statement.

Since late March, Air NZ has required all crew returning from Los Angeles to self-isolate for 14 days after "slightly heightened risk" was identified.


Air NZ has not had a positive case in the past 13 days, and only one positive case has popped up since April 1.

Ardern introduced a blanket quarantine on all overseas arrivals from April 9.

There are currently 2307 people arriving from overseas in managed isolation, with 104 people in strict quarantine because they had symptoms when they arrived.