A health expert wants Air New Zealand to go a step further and implement a no jab, no fly rule for domestic passengers.
The national carrier has announced travellers will need to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid-19 test to board internal flights from mid-December.
In the South Island, there was clear support for Air New Zealand’s new policy, with one person saying it would keep the country safe, while another said it protected those who had been vaccinated.
Unvaccinated passengers can still travel if they show a negative test within three days of flying. However, not everyone thought that was enough to prevent the virus from spreading.
One man said he had chosen to get the vaccine in light of the increased movement of people around the country.
Epidemiologist Dr Rod Jackson said the measures were a good start.
“I would have gone further, no jab no flights at all would be my preference, I’m hoping that this is just an interim that they are allowing people with negative tests on because we know there are cases where people have had a negative test and then subsequently tested positive.”
One of the recent cases in Christchurch tested negative for Covid-19 in Auckland before travelling, only returning a positive result at home once they became symptomatic.
Jackson said he did not like mandates any more than anyone else, but this was a matter of life and death.
“[It’s] the worst public health crisis in a century, the most deaths since World War Two, I mean, this is such a really big deal and we’ve been so fortunate to have been protected from it so far.
“The only sustainable intervention is vaccination.”
Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said the airline did not want to exclude unvaccinated people from flying.
“We think its appropriate that people all around New Zealand can travel and we are also cognisant that in many ports we are the only form of air travel so as I said, we don’t want to leave anyone behind.”
In Queenstown, mayor Jim Boult supported the airline’s policy, which he said provided New Zealanders with assurance that travellers are as close as they can be to not having Covid-19.
Tourism operators had told Boult they couldn’t wait to see the Auckland market return.
“They are 60 percent of our domestic business so they whole town is very keen to see them back.”
Boult said while the spread of Covid-19 was inevitable, those in the Queenstown Lakes District were prepared with more than 98 percent of people having had one dose of the vaccine and 88 percent fully vaccinated against the virus.
The district plans to have 95 percent of its residents fully vaccinated by mid-December.