Quarantine concerns continue to mount as international travellers, most not wearing masks, find themselves packed into buses and ferried 200km to isolation hotels.

There are fresh health fears over the lax personal safety after new arrivals, including those from Covid-19 hotspots, were shepherded onto crammed buses and taken on a four-hour road trip from Auckland Airport to Rotorua at the weekend.

Those on board the first buses to the popular Bay of Plenty tourist destination say weary passengers were given little warning that they would be travelling across the North Island to undergo their 14-day quarantine period.

UK-based lawyer Nick Soper, 51, said after taking care to keep himself free from infection on the flight over it was alarming to be seated in a full bus with many fellow travellers not wearing personal protection.

A masked Nick Soper, front, inside the
A masked Nick Soper, front, inside the "debacle" bus trip from Auckland to Rotorua. Photo / Supplied

He later discovered when he arrived in Rotorua the local health authority and the Army had been told there would be just 12 people on each bus and all would be in PPE.

"They were also very surprised to see those rules were not followed. The bus was a debacle. They're not complying with their own guidelines."


Soper, who flew into Auckland late Saturday afternoon ahead of his father's funeral in Southland next month, said he had also been caught out by the sudden changes to isolation facilities.

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Before leaving the UK he had checked official quarantine advice and, factoring in the 14-day self-isolation period, booked a midday flight to Queenstown from Auckland on July 5. He had arranged to meet up with relatives and friends heading to the funeral at Athol in Southland.

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Given an unexpected change in isolation and factoring travel time from Rotorua, he was no longer able to make the connecting flight, putting arrangements in jeopardy.

"At the moment my plans are completely up in the air," he said.

There was also uncertainty over when his quarantine ended. He understood it would be 14 days starting from when he landed in New Zealand but Health Ministry guidance updated on Thursday now said it would now end on check out the following morning.

"They can't tell me with any certainty when the 14 days started and when I can leave."

Soper was also upset he would have to arrange and pay for his own transport from Rotorua.

"The MoH literature states: 'You will be required to arrange your own transport from this facility to your next accommodation'.That means I will have to arrange and pay for travel to Auckland airport, which I find quite staggering."


He said he planned to discuss this with officials today.

Another person on a quarantine bus to Rotorua described the trip as "awful".

The packed bus stopped briefly for a toilet break outside Matamata. Photo / Supplied
The packed bus stopped briefly for a toilet break outside Matamata. Photo / Supplied

A relative told NZME those on board were not given the opportunity to stock up on water, believing they were initially only travelling a short distance to a local hotel.

"It was terrible that they were not even given water nor could they prepare as they were not informed that they were not going on a 20-minute journey, but one that took 4.5 hours. We must remember that these are civilians, not Army."

Yesterday senior Cabinet minister Megan Woods and Air Commodore Darryn Webb, the pair in charge of the Government's isolation and quarantining operations, conceded communication could have been better but were unapologetic for the change.

Repatriation needed to happened in a safe and managed way so there would be some inconvenience to passengers, Webb said.

"I make no apologies for the tough rules that are in place."

Rotorua hotels are now being used to cater for additional people arriving back in the country after Auckland's hotels became full.

Last week New Zealand's stellar 24-day run of zero cases came to an abrupt end, with seven new cases all from managed quarantine facilities.

There are currently 4272 people in quarantine with more than 20,000 people passing through facilities in recent months.