Pre-departure measures to protect New Zealand from travellers with Covid-19 should be strengthened following the arrival of 10 Covid-infected people on one flight from India, a leading epidemiologist says.
Otago University Professor Michael Baker is pushing for a week in quarantine and a negative test before travellers can fly into New Zealand from Covid-risky countries.
The National Party has also been pushing for a pre-departure negative test, and its health spokesman Shane Reti said its policy was reinforced by the flight from India.
But Labour leader Jacinda Ardern remains lukewarm on a pre-departure test, saying it would "not necessarily" strengthen New Zealand's overall response.
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"People often could have Covid and not test positive. They have to have had it for a period of time before they test positive," Ardern said yesterday.
But she hinted a pre-departure test was something that could be looked at in the future, when it was easier to have it done.
"In India, specifically, one of the issues has been the ability to test pre-departure. We would literally have to have health people on the ground in order to do that," Ardern said.
"Really where you are around the world depends on whether you've got the possibility of being able to do those pre-departure tests.
"It's one extra element, but not necessarily something we can deploy at every border at this stage."
People would still need to stay in managed isolation or quarantine for 14 days and test negative before leaving, she said.
Yesterday the Ministry of Health said revealed that 12 people in managed isolation tested positive for Covid-19 - 10 were on the same flight from India.
Baker told RNZ this morning that he supported a pre-departure test and one week in quarantine before flying out for countries with large Covid-19 outbreaks.
If their pre-flight test was positive, they would need to delay their departure to New Zealand by a month.
"The goal here is not to stop every case. It's to reduce the number arriving in New Zealand which puts a strain on our system," Baker said.
"This is all about probability, it's about decreasing the risk of anyone getting through this managed isolation system in New Zealand."
Reti pointed to another flight from India where 17 people on board tested positive.
"Pre-departure testing effectively pushes our border offshore and strengthens our protection from coronavirus," Reti said.
"Labour can't let bloody-mindedness stand in the road of strengthening our border."