Stakeholders representing foreign yachts and other small craft in the Pacific have written to the New Zealand Government asking for an exemption for 300-350 foreign vessels to enter New Zealand to avoid the Pacific cyclone season, Maritime NZ informed in its weekly update on COVID-19.

New Zealand citizens, on either a New Zealand or foreign vessel, can return home without having to apply for an exemption. However, if any of the vessel’s crew are foreign citizens, then the vessel must be approved to enter New Zealand through the exemption process.

The Ministry’s decision is based on the maritime border order, COVID-19 Public Health Response (Maritime Border) Order (No 2) 2020, which came into effect on 6 September and is still in force.

Except from some specific exemptions for cargo ships and fishing vessels in place, the Director General of Health can also grant exemptions for humanitarian reasons on a case-by-case basis.

However, 'there is no certainty that a cyclone will affect any particular region of the Pacific over the next cyclone season', the update reads. Therefore, cyclone season does not mean that every vessel in the Pacific is suddenly in imminent danger.

On that basis, when weighed against the public health risk and resource constraints, the Ministry does not consider cyclone season to be sufficient in itself to justify entry into New Zealand.

In the same context, the government stressed the significant public health risk with the potential arrival of 300 – 350 foreign vessels from the Pacific, which would bring up to 1,000 overseas’ people, many from areas of high COVID-19 risk.

New Zealand has limited available resources for testing, managed isolation and quarantine. There is also limited availability of suitable berthage for securely and safely isolating and controlling incoming vessels.

Meanwhile, the government announced that Auckland would move to Alert Level 2 with no extra restrictions from 23 September. This means people in Auckland will be able to attend social gatherings, funerals and tangihanga in groups of up to 100 people.

The rest of New Zealand moved to Alert Level 1 on 21 September 2020.

You legally must wear a face covering when travelling into, from or through Auckland on public transport or aircraft.