Covid-19 coronavirus: Masks required on Auckland public transport, all flights – Jacinda Ardern

Kiwis will need to wear masks on public transport in Auckland from Thursday, Covid response minister Chris Hipkins says.

They will not need to be worn on school buses – but will be needed on all flights across New Zealand.

Uber drivers will have to wear masks but their passengers will not, Hipkins said.

Police can enforce rules but that will be a last resort and bus drivers will not be responsible for enforcement.

He said people will be punished if they breach these orders, but the approach the Government has use is more about education.

“We are asking every New Zealander to continue to play their part,” Hipkins said.

He said Ministers will be looking into if this should be extended to the rest of the country.

Hipkins is still encouraging people to wear a mask when they are unable to social distance.

He said a wider outbreak can be avoided – if New Zealanders all play their part.

He said this was yet another set and NZ looks to enhance its protections.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said these new approaches are “another line of defence”.

She said on-going mask use has always been encouraged, but the Government wanted to see mask use on public transport enhanced.

On flights, she said it’s “much much simpler” if everyone on flights wears masks.

But when it comes to public transport, that’s just for Auckland at the moment given there is more of a border workforce living in the city.

Ardern said the Ministry of Health has recommended short term mandatory mask usage a while ago, but Ardern said that would have been to confusing.

“We’re not expecting bus drivers to stop the bus and enforce these measures,” Hipkins said.

Ardern said many countries have gone back into lockdown and many Kiwis are wanting to come home, she told reporters.

She said “no system” is perfect.

It is Cabinet’s view that New Zealand’s rules need to be constantly re-looked at.

“We believe we need additional precautions,” she said.

Ardern, at the conference, said APEC is important for New Zealand and the last thing the world needs right now is protectionist trade policies.

She said the RCEP agreement is important for New Zealand because it opens the country up to the world more.

Ardern said the “green shoots” of NZ’s Covid-19 recovery puts the county in a good position to talk to other nations.

She said NZ remains in a good position, but our freedoms are under threat as Covid increases around the world.

Ardern is also likely to be questioned on what the Government can do about New Zealand’s soaring house prices.

But the focus of her post-Cabinet press conference will likely be on Covid-19 – specifically rules around the usage of face masks.

Last week, after a Covid-19 community scare – which was later traced back to the Jet Park MIQ facility – Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said Cabinet would discuss any new mandatory face mask rules.

But those rules would likely be focused on public transport and potentially air travel.
Under current alert level settings, masks usage on public transport is mandatory in levels 2 and above.

Any new rules unveiled today would be add-ons to level one – meaning there would not need to be changes in alert levels for masks to become compulsory on public transport.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning, Ardern said ministers will be discussing details of mandatory mask usage this afternoon.

“For Auckland, you would have already heard Minister Hipkins and myself say ‘look, for Auckland public transport this is a good precautionary measure.'”

She said Cabinet will be talking about what happens on planes, as well as what will happen around the rest of the country.

Ardern said any measures announced would be in place for the foreseeable future – “we’re not talking about short-term”.

That goes for public transport and “possibly” planes – but not necessarily throughout the entire country.

She said the focus would be on places where it’s hard to trace people, like buses.

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