Cruise ships could return to New Zealand waters as quarantine hotels


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It has been suggested that cruise ships could be requisitioned as floating quarantine hotels, as the number of returning New Zealanders in need of isolation accommodation increases to 6,000.

“I think everything is on the table at this point,” Health Minister Chris Hipkins responded to the idea that was floated at a press conference on Tuesday.

There has been a shortage of suitable accommodation for New Zealanders returning from overseas to go through their mandatory 14-day quarantine period. Airlines have been urged to cap inbound travel, as hotels and temporary isolation facilities are reserved for returning travelers.

There have also been a few high-profile violations at quarantine hotels, including an incident on Tuesday, after which a return passenger who fled from a central Auckland address tested positive for the coronavirus.

“There are a lot of things to consider, installation security is one of them,” Hipkins said.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said cruise ships were "on the table" as a solution to the shortage of isolation facilities.  Photo / File
Health Minister Chris Hipkins said cruise ships were “on the table” as a solution to the shortage of isolation facilities. Photo / File

Cruise ship shipping can be an advantage in this regard, as floating hotels can accommodate thousands of returning travelers to a location that is not easily compromised.

Although the New Zealand Cruise Association said it was not aware of the government’s approach to cruise lines, it knew that this was “one of the options being considered by the responsibles”.

Kevin O’Sullivan, CEO of NZCA, said cruise ships would be a logical choice of accommodation for returning travelers.

“Cruise ships are very well controlled and secure environments, with good sanitation and health protocols, staffed with medical professionals and able to accommodate a reasonable number, so it makes sense that they are being considered for the isolation of New Zealanders arriving from abroad, ”he said. noted.

Reassigning ships as isolation facilities would be a welcome move by liners that had to stop sailing during the coronavirus pandemic. Cruise lines have had to adapt quickly to the coronavirus pandemic, after the World Health Organization identified the ships as potential “reservoirs” of infection and the CDC put in place an order to prohibition of navigation for fear that ships will become parameters “where [crew and/or passengers] are likely to have close contact with each other “.

In February, a mismanaged attempt to contain a Covid 19 outbreak on the Diamond Princess ship in Yokohama led to 20% of passengers contracting the disease and 13 deaths.

Containing the infection in isolation facilities would be a large part of the assessment of potential quarantine facilities.

The return to operations of the cruise industry has been further delayed after the 60- to 90-day extension of the ban on arrival of ships at New Zealand ports. Sailing should not resume until September at the earliest.

The announcement comes as the government has asked Air New Zealand and other airlines to cap tickets and cut capacity on inbound flights to reduce demand for isolation facilities.

Quarantine hotels: The Stamford Plaza where a 32-year-old passenger violated his isolation conditions on Tuesday.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Quarantine hotels: The Stamford Plaza where a 32-year-old passenger violated his isolation conditions on Tuesday. Photo / Dean Purcell

Airlines have agreed to freeze short-term bookings as the ministry scrambles to find adequate capacity for managed isolation facilities.

“People who have already booked flights with Air New Zealand will still be able to enter New Zealand subject to the availability of quarantine space,” Housing Minister Megan Woods said.

About Mohammed B. Hale

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