Singapore Airlines says the solution it has come up with to get Kiwis from the UK to New Zealand is “primarily” for travellers with existing bookings.
Many countries have introduced tougher restrictions on travellers from the UK after a surge in people in that country testing positive for a Sars-CoV-2 virus variant thought to spread more easily than other strains.
Earlier in December, Kiwis in the UK who had been due to travel back to New Zealand were worried they would be stranded, but Singapore Airlines said on Wednesday it had received approval to carry passengers from London’s Heathrow Airport to Sydney and Auckland via Singapore.
Singapore Airlines UK-NZ route, via Singapore, is ‘primarily’ for people who have already booked.
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Those passengers have to remain in their aircraft while it was on the ground in Singapore, and test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of departure from London. They would also be segregated from other passengers in the aircraft.
On Thursday, Singapore Airlines said it would try to help people who did not already have a booking and had an “essential need” to travel. That would depend on seat availability and confirmation of a spot in a New Zealand Managed Isolation and Quarantine facility.
But the London-Auckland services were “in place to primarily facilitate travel for those with existing bookings, and who meet the requirement of taking a pre-departure Covid-19 PCR test within 72 hours before the flight, and obtaining a negative test result”.
Ambulances outside the Royal London Hospital, in London, on Tuesday. Health service figures show hospitals now have more Covid-19 patients than during April’s first-wave peak, and there are concerns more people will need hospital care as a result of Christmas gatherings.
When Auckland man Paul Morovic saw the news on Wednesday that Singapore Airlines was bringing some Kiwis back from the UK, he swung into action to try to get his daughter, who is being furloughed from her job, home.
After hours “playing Whack-A-Mole” he was able to get a place for her in an MIQ facility in late January, but when he tried to book a ticket was told the flight schedule only went to January 6, he said.
So he had to phone Singapore, and after a 20-minute conversation was told the flights were only for people who had already booked.
The experience was frustrating, Morovic said. “People are just stuck there (the UK) and they can’t get out.”
His daughter, Sarah, had somewhere to live in London, and he hoped the furlough from her job wouldn’t last more than two months, and could be shorter, but he was giving up hope of getting her home for now.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson talking to reporters on Wednesday (local time) after extending the toughest coronavirus restrictions to more than three-quarters of England’s population, saying a fast-spreading new variant of the virus has reached most of the country.
A Managed Isolation and Quarantine spokesperson said the agency was expecting flights from Heathrow in the coming days.
He confirmed those passengers would need to produce a negative PCR test result before boarding in London, and would remain on-board while in transit in Singapore.
From New Year’s Day, anyone travelling to New Zealand who had been in the UK or US, including as a transit point, would be required to have a Covid-19 swab within 24 hours of arrival in a managed isolation facility.
The returnees would have to stay in their room at the facility until the test result was known, with the test results being turned around as quickly as possibly – usually within 24-48 hours.
As was standard practice, they would also be tested around the third and 12th days.