By RNZ

New Zealand will now allow foreign nationals to transit through airports here if they need to get home.

It's seeking similar agreements with a range of countries to allow New Zealanders overseas to do the same.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said there were still millions of people stranded around the world and governments continued to work to get them home.

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"Accordingly, Cabinet agreed yesterday that New Zealand would seek reciprocal transit arrangements with a number of countries to enable our citizens to transit each other's airports," he said.

New Zealand has 54 new coronavirus cases today. The new cases are made up of 32 confirmed cases and 22 probable cases. It brings the total number of cases to 1160.

New Zealand had already received a number of requests from other countries to transit through Auckland, so people could be evacuated, or flown home, including from Pacific countries.

New Zealand would allow foreign nationals to transit but under strict rules, Peters said.

Transit rules

• They must remain airside.

• They cannot enter New Zealand.

• They must have a maximum 10-hour window to leave on their onward flight.

• No Covid-19 symptoms, no contact with a suspected or confirmed case and not be awaiting test results.

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• They must have confirmation from the airline that they will be permitted to board for their entire journey - as well as confirmation prior to boarding that their destination country will permit arrival.

New Zealand's airports were closed to transiting passengers, with the exception of Australian citizens, on March 25.

This decision "opens up the potential for transits by foreign nationals, in a carefully managed way," Peters said.

Birdsong, blaring sirens: A pandemic in sound. Video / AP

Speaking at her afternoon media conference this afternoon, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country would be maintaining strict criteria, "that includes that any transiting passengers remain airside".

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Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website