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Covid-19: Public tip-off identified man who flew from Whangārei to Queenstown without exemption
A member of the public is believed to have tipped off police to a man who travelled from alert level 3 lockdown in Northland to Queenstown via Wellington without an appropriate travel exemption.
Police have confirmed the man flew from Whangārei to Wellington on a commercial flight on Saturday, police said.
He stayed overnight at a hotel near Wellington Airport on Saturday night before flying to Queenstown on Sunday morning.
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The man was travelling for employment but did not have the necessary documentation to leave Whangārei under Covid-19 alert level 3, they said.
A Ministry of Health spokesman said the man returned a negative Covid-19 test on Monday, but would not comment on his vaccination status.
The ministry would be taking no further action and the matter would remain with police, the spokesman said.
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said he understood a member of the public had alerted police to the man’s presence.
The man’s actions were inexcusable, and put the community and the struggling local economy at risk, he said.
The man would be encouraged to leave the district, he said.
Boult was also concerned that someone was able to get on a commercial flight without an exemption.
There was a high possibility Covid-19 would come to the South Island at some time, so he encouraged everyone to get vaccinated.
“I’m calling for 95 per cent of this community to be vaccinated forthwith,” he said.
Police are working to understand how he was permitted to fly without the appropriate documentation.
News of the man travelling without the correct documentation comes amid a raft of calls for a hard border between the South and North Islands.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern conceded that the situation meant a need for tighter checks at airports in the event of future regional lockdowns.
“Unlike Auckland and others where you have the AvSec (Aviation Security) staff, not all our regional airports have that usual staffing that can quickly change up their approach in order to ensure that we are doing that documentation check.
“I don’t necessarily have the full picture as to whether that contributed to the issue here.”
Ardern said that while first and foremost “we ask people to actually follow the rules, and every day people are doing that without having to be stopped, asked and checked”, there would need to be stricter checks.
“But yes, one of the things we will need to ensure in the future if we are using for any reason localised lockdowns, is just as part of our checks to ensure that we are undertaking some of that at each airport.”