Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience…
Despite some of the toughest COVID-19 protection measures in the world, New Zealand is only now introducing a mandatory face mask rule for airline passengers it was announced at a news conference on Thursday afternoon by the country’s Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Cabin crew working for Air New Zealand will also no longer be exempt from quarantine rules and must now self-isolate at home after operating flights to the USA – one of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19.
The changes to health protection measures for air passengers comes after New Zealand’s 24-day Coronavirus-free streak came abruptly to an end when two tourists tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. The two women were allowed to enter New Zealand to visit a dying relative and were then permitted to leave a quarantine facility early without first taking a COVID-19 test.
One of the women fell ill soon after leaving quarantine and tested positive for the virus. Both had travelled all the way from London on several international flights before getting into New Zealand. Work continues to trace all the people the women had contact with why they were in New Zealand.
And on Thursday, the Ministry of Health confirmed one more case of COVID-19 at the New Zealand border – this time, a passenger who flew from Lahore to Doha, then onto Melbourne, before finally getting on an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland. The man was wearing a face mask throughout his journey which officials hope will limit the risk to those who had been in contact with him during the flights.
“Off the back of what I’ve learnt about the flights from Australia to New Zealand such as the one that the two cases, and indeed the case the case today who actually wore a mask throughout the flight, I asked my team yesterday to look at the option of requiring all passengers to wear masks on those flights because it seems that people are coming from a whole load of international flights and transiting through,” Dr Bloomfield explained.
Dr Bloomfield said advisors had suggested making masks available to passengers but having reviewed the evidence he says he decided that a mandatory face mask rule should also be introduced. Guidance issued later from New Zealand’s Ministry of Health suggested masks wearing was still only “strongly encouraged”.
Rising numbers of cases in the United States also seems to have informed the new policy on requiring cabin crew and pilots to self-isolate for up to 14-days after flying back into New Zealand from the United States. Crew will undergo a compulsory COVID-19 test and must self-isolate at home until the test result comes back negative.
“Particularly for Air New Zealand crew flying long-haul international routes and there are stricter requirements now for any flying to the USA and during a layover and coming back. They are required to self-isolate at home and return a negative test before going into the community,” Dr Bloomfield continued.
Similar self-isolation procedures have been introduced by several other countries, including the likes of the United Arab Emirates. However, the rules go against official advice from the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) who say aircrew shouldn’t be subjected to onerous testing and quarantine rules.
An earlier version of this article stated that Air New Zealand cabin crew must self-isolate after all international flights. Official rules published by the Ministry of Health limited this requirement just to flights from the United States. Air New Zealand will make masks available to passengers on all international flights and strongly recommends passengers wear one.
Mateusz Maszczynski is a serving international flight attendant with experience at a major Middle East and European airline. Mateusz is passionate about the aviation industry and helping aspiring flight attendants achieve their dreams. Cabin crew recruitment can be tough, ultra-competitive and just a little bit confusing - Mateusz has been there and done that. He's got the low down on what really works.