Scheduled aircraft arriving in New Zealand are generally exempted by health authorities from having to apply for pratique – or health clearance and permission to disembark passengers and crew and commence operations – unless there are passengers or aircrew with a condition of concern on board.
If so, New Zealand health authorities must be alerted so they can assess the situation and advise the most appropriate course of action.
Any other conditions that may lead to the spread of disease should also be notified. Illnesses not showing symptoms of concern do not require notification and should be dealt with normally through available medical services.
Diagnosing conditions of concern
Airline procedures for the diagnosis of health problems are based on those developed by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. In summary, an infectious disease of concern is to be suspected if a person has a temperature of 38°C or greater, in association with certain signs or symptoms:
- Appearing obviously unwell
- Persistent coughing
- Impaired breathing
- Persistent diarrhoea
- Persistent vomiting
- Skin rash
- Bruising or bleeding without previous injury
- Confusion of recent onset.
Notifying conditions of concern
The aircraft’s captain is to be advised of any conditions of concern. The captain will then notify the airline’s agent at the earliest possible opportunity – ideally at least one hour before landing. Prompt notification enables health authorities to respond quickly and, if necessary, be waiting when the aircraft lands.
To help with risk assessment, the captain should provide the airline agent with information regarding the illness. This might include:
- The ill person’s approximate temperature
- Their age group
- The countries they have recently visited.
The ill person’s seat number should also be provided.
If there is a change of status, an update is provided on landing. The airline agent will then notify the local public health unit so that the flight can be met and the situation assessed before pratique is granted. This can be via an incident control centre if the airport has one.
If the aircraft does not have an agent in New Zealand, the captain must report any incidents that could lead to the spread of infectious disease to New Zealand Air Traffic Control. Any reports received by New Zealand Air Traffic Control will be reported to the Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) emergency number. ARPHS will then either manage the event or alert the relevant public health unit.