The Government has no plans to shut down travel routes from Covid hotspots, such as India, because Kiwis have a right to come home regardless of the Covid-risk they pose.
But Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is seeking other ways to help keep communities Covid-free, including around pre-departure testing, exercise areas in MIQ facilities, and whether travellers can be rerouted back to New Zealand to keep the numbers down on flights that are more likely to be Covid-infected.
His comments follow a call from Otago University public health experts to strengthen the layers of defence to keep New Zealand communities Covid-free, including having fewer arrivals from the UK, the US and India - countries were Covid remains rampant.
They also suggested putting travellers from high-risk countries in MIQ facilities away from urban centres, vaccinating them on arrival, eliminating shared MIQ areas used for smoking or exercising, and mandating daily PCR-based testing of saliva for MIQ workers.
Today there were two new cases in MIQ - both arriving on Emirates flights from India in recent days and testing positive on day 1 or day zero.
This follows the pattern in recent weeks of most of the Covid cases in MIQ coming from India on an Emirates flight; on March 27, for example, there were 10 people who later tested positive.
"This is a very full flight and it's obviously coming from a country where Covid-19 is very rampant," Hipkins said.
But he said there was no plan to stop Kiwis returning home from Covid hotspots.
"We've always been clear, and the position is not going to change on this, that New Zealand citizens and residents should be able to return home."
That particular flight brought medical supplies to New Zealand - but he said it might be possible to cut the number of passengers.
"I haven't had the full advice on this, but we could potentially just relocate those passengers to different flights so they'll just be coming via a different route."
He was also awaiting more advice on checking the integrity of pre-departure tests, following reports that fake certificates can be bought in India.
He said the Government was also looking at whether any MIQ facilities - contracts are up for renewal at the end of April - needed to close.
"Are there things about some of those facilities that make them less suitable? One of those things is if there's not a nearby area where people can get outside, and we are having to bus them a reasonable distance."
Yesterday MIQ boss Brigadier Jim Bliss announced changes following a series of mistakes that saw a Covid-infected returnee share a bus ride to an exercise area with others who then had their MIQ stays extended.
The person who tested positive had had a headache in previous days and shouldn't have been allowed to go on the bus, and those on the bus failed to sit in the same seats on the return leg.
The people on the bus also didn't wear masks and had arrived from different countries - meaning the passenger cohorts were mixing.
The new rules include using buses with two doors - the front one for the driver and the rear one for returnees - and providing a verbal briefing at the beginning of each journey about wearing masks at all times and sitting in the same seat to and from the exercise area.