A prominent scientist has called Air New Zealand for encouraging passengers to remove masks by serving food and drinks on short flights.
However, the airline said it had recently discussed the matter with health officials, and they supported the food and drink served.
Infectious disease expert, Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles tagged the national airline on a Twitter thread today, saying she had contacted Air NZ several times to question its policy of serving snacks and drinks on domestic flights, but never received a response.
The current approach means people take off their masks.
“They only serve cookies or chips. It’s not like we can’t last an hour or two without them,” Wiles, an Associate Professor at the University of Auckland, and who has become one of the faces of the science community. responding to Covid-19, said the thread.
“This makes me very angry, because they got a massive bailout from the government to keep them alive and of course in return they have to do their part for our team of 5 million people.”
Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said questions about serving food and drinks had been checked with the Ministry of Health “recently, and they are supporting us to continue this service under Alert Level 1”
“We continue to have regular dialogue around our arrangements with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Transportation to ensure we are keeping everyone safe. Customers, of course, are still required to wear masks or face masks when they are not eating or drinking.
“I travel with our domestic service once a week serving tea and coffee and in my experience, about two-thirds of our customers choose to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and a snack while on the plane.”
University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said the government needed to issue clearer rules around face masks.
Until that happens, he said it was understandable that there was uncertainty from both organizations such as Air NZ and individuals about the best approach.
Wiles also raised concerns about the linking of Air NZ employees to a new research paper “by Plan B children,” advocating easing border restrictions.
“It’s only because we followed Plan A and not Plan B that we can even fly safely internally now,” he wrote.
The report was referenced by Wiles, “Estimating the effect of selective border relaxation on Covid-19 in New Zealand”, called for a “traffic light” system to be put in place at the border, under which international travelers are judged according to the Covid-19 situation in their home countries.
Co-authors include Dr Simon Thornley, an epidemiologist at the University of Auckland and part of the “Plan B” group who argued that the lockdown was an overreaction to Covid-19, and Air NZ’s chief medical officer, Dr Ben Johnston.
This research was funded by Auckland International Airport. Wiles followed up on his initial social media post by tweeting an apology to Air NZ for falsely claiming the airline was funding some of the research.
Under the proposed traffic light system, travel will not be restricted from locations free of Covid-19.
Report released yesterday but written in August 2020.
The study predicts more than 60,000 travelers a month will come to the country under the model, up from 11,271 who entered in August 2020.
Foran said the study was carried out by a “safe border project”, which involves him and others in the industry, “and is not linked to Plan B”.
“This is one part of a wider work that is considering options for safe travel as we manage the long-term effects of Covid-19. This pandemic is clearly growing rapidly and research is being carried out back in mid-2020 before a new variant of Covid-19 exists. We are continuing to work closely with the Ministry of Health and Transport to consider options if borders are opened. “
Responding to the study, Professor Michael Plank of Te Pūnaha Matatini and the University of Canterbury, said such a system means violations such as those seen recently at the Pullman Hotel will occur 20-50 percent more frequently.
“The study authors claim that the latest requirements for the pre-departure test will reduce this risk. However, this is far from clear as the pre-departure test is imperfect and many travelers are already required to take the pre-departure test on their airline or country of transit. . “