Winston Peters: Government coordinating with other countries for repatriation

The domestic travel ban has been lifted for stranded foreign tourists trying to get to international airports to fly home, after the Coalition Government announced a plan to help the tens of thousands of foreigners stranded here.

Foreign Minister Rt. Hon. Winston Peters spoke with RNZ's Susie Ferguson said foreign tourists can get to their airport of departure through domestic flights or by land travel. However, he noted that stringent health measures would be enforced.

"All of which will be seeking to enforce physical distancing requirements, but there are five options of how they can get to airports and also fly between airports," the Foreign Minister said.

There were also strict measures being applied to flights chartered by foreign governments to repatriate their respective citizens.

"Take for example the German government, it has hired a serious number of Air New Zealand flights in their case. They would all be different and we have to look at them one by one."

"We know that the flights to Doha by Qatar Airlines has just doubled as of yesterday to take up these numbers. The medical and safety requirements will be strict for them all," Minister Peters added.

Regarding New Zealanders stranded overseas, the Foreign Minister said that people were working hard behind-the-scenes to repatriate them back. He has also been in contact with foreign governments to arrange flights for their return.

"We are trying to get as many of these flights up with New Zealanders coming this way as we possibly can. And we have some success working with other countries, just like we brought out 27 New Zealanders via an Australian government flight to New Zealand."

RNZ's Susie Ferguson asked about the Kiwi couple stuck in India who are now asking the government for assistance. The Foreign Minister noted that he issued a press statement calling on all New Zealanders overseas to return home before borders were shut.

"To make it clear some time ago, I put out a press statement saying: ‘you got to start coming home the options are seriously going to close down on you and real fast’."

"We put that press statement out and made public comment about it to hope that NZers and their relations back here will warn them to start making plans because the options were closing down fast," Minister Peters added.

He noted that the Indian government made the decision to shut down their borders very quickly, proving his point that efforts to return to New Zealand should have been done promptly.

However, despite these enormous difficulties the Foreign Minister said the government was not giving up.

"It is not the end of it. In the same way we are still dealing with people in Chile, elsewhere in South America. Everywhere we are trying and people are working extraordinarily long hours [to accomplish the task]."

Minister Peters added that "\where there is an opportunity to repatriate New Zealanders, "we will do our best to bring them back."

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