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Anyone planning an optional overseas trip with a free two weeks in isolation tacked on the end has been warned they could foot the bill of their stay.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday: "It's just not fair for New Zealanders to pick up the tab like that."

With the school holidays coming up, Ardern said the Government was looking into whether it could charge Kiwis coming back from optional overseas travel as it was "unfair" for taxpayers to pay.


6.35am: James Shaw, 7.05am: Grant Dalton, 7.35am: Tom Sainsbury, 7.37am: Paula Bennett

Ardern is expecting official advice "sooner rather than later" on whether they could legally be treated differently from Kiwis needing to return and had the unalienable right to do so.

Those travelling for essential reasons would also likely be exempt.

"We have a number of New Zealanders who are returning home for a range of very significant, and often dire, circumstances.

"For someone who chooses to exit New Zealand will, on occasion, be in a very different situation and I do think we should explore payment for them."

To the end of June, the Government has estimated it would spend $81 million on moving 21,500 Kiwis through border facilities - at an average of $3800 per person.

Figures released to RNZ last week showed 60 people left the country after alert level 4 restrictions were introduced and returned before May.

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Air New Zealand said last night that return trips made up less than 10 per cent of its bookings but it was important to note some of those looked to be long-duration stays - for example, leaving this week and returning in December.


Anyone leaving New Zealand would also be required to comply with other countries' restrictions - Australia's borders are closed like New Zealand's, the United Kingdom requires 14 days' isolation at home while the United States doesn't have any restrictions on air travellers.

The Government is also exploring options to confine returning travellers to their rooms for three days until the results of their first test - which would provide another layer of protection, Ardern said.

Returnees will now be given masks on all Air New Zealand flights, with a strong expectation they'd be worn, but will be required to wear them from the moment they get off the plane or they could face enforcement action.

A further $150m - on top of the $200m announced in April - would be spent on sourcing and supplying the extra PPE for arrivals and staff at border facilities, Air New Zealand, and more for health workers.

Kiwis looking to take an optional overseas trip could be asked to pay for isolation on their return. Photo / Dean Purcell
Kiwis looking to take an optional overseas trip could be asked to pay for isolation on their return. Photo / Dean Purcell

Ardern was reluctant to give a timeline for the transtasman bubble but said it wasn't unrealistic for it to be in place by the end of the year, and signalled it could work state-by-state.

But there were a number of issues to work through, including that transtasman flights were used by a lot of people in transit, including people coming from other countries.

National leader Todd Muller yesterday said it was "untenable" for New Zealand to keep its border closed until there was a vaccine and the country would be "on its knees" if it waited 12-18 months for one.

Ardern said she thought it was "untenable" to open New Zealand's borders while Covid-19 was surging overseas.

"Any suggestions of borders opening at this point, frankly, is dangerous."

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Yesterday there were two new imported cases in border facilities - one was a man in his 50s from India and the other was a woman in her 20s from the United States - bringing the number of active cases to 22.

And with the 2754 tests processed on Sunday, more than 20 per cent of all Covid-19 tests conducted have happened in the last fortnight but no community transmission was uncovered.

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said there were still about 50 people the Ministry of Health couldn't get in contact with and another 367 it had called, texted or emailed but hadn't heard back.

Those people, who are among those who left managed isolation facilities between June 9 and June 16, didn't pose a risk to spreading in the community because they'd done their 14 days in a facility, Bloomfield said.

But said it was important they call Healthline and warned people would be referred to finding services and enforcement "if appropriate".