Life under Alert Level 2 seems to have settled down a bit as we’ve got used to the rules and our new routines.
There’s not much new information to share at the moment, but there are some things that people have raised with us and I wanted to update you on them.
News on temporary visas
The Minister for Immigration recently announced some short-term changes to visa settings to help visitors and other temporary migrants remain in New Zealand lawfully while they arrange travel home.
The changes are:
- Automatically extending current onshore visitor visas that are due to expire before the end of October 2020 for five-months
- Introducing a new two-month COVID-19 short-term visitor visa to help temporary migrants who are unable to leave New Zealand due to international travel restrictions when their current visa expires.
In addition, the Minister has announced two new updates on immigration. The first is a new border exception category to enable the return of some temporary work visa holders who are overseas and have strong, ongoing links to New Zealand. More details are available in the Minister’s statement.
He also issued information on changes to current border exception rules to allow some partners of New Zealand citizens and residents to be able to reunite in New Zealand. This includes citizens of visa waiver countries. More information is available on the beehive website.
It’s good to have confirmation on these issues and I hope this will relieve some of the worries that members of our communities will have gone through.
We’ve had some questions about the availability of free face masks that were distributed by the Ministry of Social Development. Three million disposable masks have been provided via public transport operators and community groups and currently, no more are scheduled to be distributed. The environmental impact caused by disposing of millions of masks is proving something of an issue.
There are instructions for making your own, reusable face-covering, including diagrams on the COVID-19 website. Face-coverings can be made from t-shirts, spare cloth or even socks. As long as it covers your mouth and nose, it will do the job.
Concerns with sharing contact details when getting a test for COVID-19
We’ve heard from some community leaders, that people without valid visas may be reluctant to come forward for a COVID-19 test because it involves providing contact information.
I can understand these concerns but any contact information is used by health officials and is not shared with Immigration New Zealand, even if the test result is positive. Some basic contact information has to be collected so that results can be sent, and just in case the test is positive and health officials need to get in touch urgently. If someone tests positive they might be asked to go into a quarantine facility while they are sick. This is to keep their family and community safe from COVID-19. They will be free to leave once they are healthy.
The best thing I can share with you is what Chris Hipkins, Minister of Health said publicly on this issue:
He said he wanted to make it "absolutely clear" that the government would not use any information collected through testing for "immigration purposes".
"If people are here on an expired visa and they go and get a test we will not join those two dots together".
"Regardless of your personal circumstances if you're asked to get a test or you're in that group that's at greater risk, please get the test. We won't use that information to punish you in some other way and I cannot state that enough".
Finally, we know that these are stressful times for many. Aside from the disruption to our normal lives the economic situation and impact on jobs can take a mental toll.
Support is available, and details on how to look after your mental wellbeing, as well as the services that can help are on the COVID-19 website.