As you will have seen, we have had a border case of an MIQ worker.
Ashley Bloomfield has provided a briefing on that already.
My intention this afternoon is to focus on the 24 positive cases today amongst returnees, including 17 from India.
While New Zealand continues to enjoy effective elimination of COVID with no community transmission, the same is not true of the rest of the world.
In fact World Health Organisation global reporting shows that in just the last month cases of the virus have been on the rise again internationally after falling steadily over January and February, with surges in cases particularly in Brazil and India.
Parts of Europe are going back into hard lockdown after a spiking of cases, with the highly transmissible UK strain taking hold and spreading through the continent.
We are starting to see this global trend mirrored locally, in those arriving in New Zealand. Through late January until recently our 7 day average of cases in MIQ had been sitting roughly at 2-3. This was a manageable level of cases that has not placed a significant strain on our system and has presented a low level of risk of wider transfer.
However since March the rolling 7-day average has steadily risen to around 4-5 cases a day and yesterday the rolling average was 7, a high we haven’t hit since October last year.
As we know New Zealand is not immune to the virus, especially with an active pandemic raging outside our borders. It has been our strict border defences that have helped to keep COVID out and it is to the border we again look to manage this global spike.
Over recent weeks the government has been reviewing our border settings to better understand what we can do to limit the number of cases arriving on our shores.
While day zero testing is picking up cases immediately, and moving people to quarantine reduces risk of transmission, ultimately we want fewer kiwis arriving home with the virus.
As we have said all along, pre-departure testing is not a failsafe tool. Advice is that people are likely getting the virus following their test as they travel to the airport and before the board a plane.
As such I have asked officials to provide me with advice for the improved management of arrivals from high risk countries.
In the interim I am announcing we are temporarily suspending entry into New Zealand for travellers from India. This will take effect from 4pm on 11 April (this Sunday) and remain in place until 28 April.
I want to emphasise that while the high number of arrivals with COVID from India has prompted this measure, we are looking at how we manage high risk points of departure generally.
During this temporary suspension the Government will investigate options to better manage risk.
While we have put in place previous travel bans on countries we have never previously suspended travel to New Zealand citizens and residents.
I want to assure you this is not a permanent arrangement, but rather a temporary suspension until we are able to better manage the current situation and see if there are ways to reduce the risk that travellers are clearly facing.