Covid 19 coronavirus: Stranded Kiwis face anxious wait for extra flights out of Sydney

By RNZ

New Zealanders stuck in New South Wales are anxiously waiting on the Government to organise extra return flights.

Kiwis have until Friday to get on a managed return flight before the transtasman bubble fully closes for at least two months.

Many already have, but an unknown number are stuck in NSW with no route home because the country’s MIQ facilities are fully booked.

One of them is Picton woman Kate Melzer, who moved to NSW with her partner for work in 2017.

They decided it was time to move home in August but have struggled to book limited flights, and even scarcer MIQ vouchers.

Melzer said they got flights home in June but they’ve since been pushed back to August 9, crucially out of the seven-day window given to all Kiwis to come home.

She said extra managed return flights are their only way out.

“Jacinda [Ardern] needs to put on more flights. There were 170 people in the queue when we spoke to Air New Zealand this morning and I’m guessing there’s hundreds more.”

Melzer said she had rationed medication to last until the end of August, but utilities at their temporary accommodation will cut off on August 5.

She just wanted the certainty only extra flights could give.

“We’re reliant on flights somehow being cooked up and placed online that we can access, but we don’t know when.”

MIQ facilities are fully booked up until August 6. But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said officials were now working through another cohort of spaces for those who still needed to get back.

“It won’t be before the 6th of August but what we’re investigating is whether there’s the ability to bring in additional capacity to meet that demand because we know there’s extraordinary stress for those in New South Wales right now.”

Ardern said the Government was liaising with airlines about more flights and she had been advised there was still a small number available for those with exceptional circumstances.

She said the promise of getting everyone home still stood.

“What we have committed to though is that for every flight that’s made available, it books out straight away and there’s extra demand. We will keep working with the airlines to ensure there’s extra flights until we’ve extinguished that demand.”

National’s Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop said people in NSW are in an information vacuum, including one family he’s spoken to who have had three flights cancelled.

“And of course you’ve got the pre-departure test rules as well, so there’s some people who’ve now had three different sets of pre-departure tests within the 72-hour window only to have their flights cancelled and they’ve had to get them again of course. So you are seeing people in very difficult and trying circumstances.”

Bishop said the Government needed to create an information portal to streamline information for those stuck in NSW and co-ordinate better with airlines to free up as many flights as possible.

– RNZ

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