Covid 19 coronavirus: Dr Siouxsie Wiles calls on Air New Zealand to stop serving food and drink, criticises funding of research

A leading scientist has called out Air New Zealand for encouraging passengers to remove masks by serving food and drink on short flights.

Infectious diseases expert Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles tagged the national carrier in a Twitter thread today, also criticising Air NZ’s funding of research arguing for a loosening of border restrictions.

Dr Wiles said she had contacted Air NZ a few times questioning the policy to serve snacks and drink on domestic flights, but never got a response.

The current approach meant people were removing masks.

“They are only serving a cookie or some chips. It’s not like we can’t survive the 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’s response to Covid-19, said in the thread.

“This makes me really angry, as they got a massive bail out from the government to keep them viable and so surely in return they should be doing their bit for our team of 5 million.”

Air NZ and Wiles have been contacted for comment.

Wiles also took issue with what she said was Air NZ’s part funding of a new research paper “by the Plan B boys”, which she said argues for a loosening of border restrictions.

“They paid the people who think we should learn to ‘live with the virus’, which let’s be clear, means lots of people getting sick, some of them dying, and likely leaving others with long term health problems,” Wiles wrote.

“I’m super disappointed by the lack of leadership shown by [Air NZ] during this pandemic. It’s only because we followed Plan A and not Plan B that we are even able to safely fly internally right now. Yet they continue to undermine our public health messaging. Shame on them.”

The report referenced by Wiles, “Estimating the effect of selective border relaxation on Covid-19 in New Zealand”, calls for a “traffic light” system to be put in place at the border, where international travellers are rated according to the Covid-19 situation in their origin country.

Under the system, travel would be unrestricted from Covid-19-free locations.

The report was released yesterday but written in August 2020, and was funded by Air New Zealand, Auckland Airport, Wellington Airport and Christchurch Airport. One of its authors is the national airline’s chief medical officer Dr Ben Johnston.

It predicts more than 60,000 travellers a month would come into the country under the model, up from the 11,271 who entered in August 2020.

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