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Some lucky Kiwis will soon be able to board a plane for the first time in some time – to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Air New Zealand turns a Boeing 787 into a special vaccination clinic for Aucklanders on Saturday. It will be one of many clinics operating nationwide as part of “Super Saturday,” which the New Zealand government is touting as a day of action to boost the nation’s immunization rate.
Those who have an appointment can arrive at Auckland Airport “bound for vaccination at destination,” as the airline puts it. And they don’t just receive protection from COVID-19 – they’ll also be offered a hangar preview, free “in-flight” snacks, and a special commemorative boarding pass.
“People will board through the front door into Business Premier, where they will receive a dose of the Pfizer vaccine in the arm of their choice,” read the event’s Facebook page. “They will then pass through the cabin in Economy class where a snack service will begin while waiting to disembark after the observation period.”
Face masks and physical distancing are required for the safety of customers and crew members, he adds.
There are a limited number of places, which people can reserve through the Department of Health website. David Morgan, the airline’s chief security officer, called the event “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“We know the Aucklanders have been doing things tough recently and we hope the idea of boarding an international plane for the first time in a long time will boost morale – while also encouraging people to protect themselves,” said Morgan, according to New Zealand. Herald.
Auckland has been in lockdown since mid-August, when a single case was discovered there. The delta variant has since spiked cases, with The Associated Press reporting that more than 1,600 confirmed cases have been associated with the outbreak on Monday. On the same day, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Auckland would remain locked up for at least another week.
New Zealand admitted earlier this month that its strategy of strict lockdown and aggressive contact tracing will no longer allow it to completely eliminate the virus, as it had been able to do in the past.
The government is now focused on increasing immunizations, including rolling out new mandates for teachers and healthcare workers. Just over 50% of New Zealand’s population has been vaccinated so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Vaccinations will also be the ticket to international travel for Locked-in Kiwis: Air New Zealand announced a “no jab, no fly” policy earlier this month. All inbound and outbound passengers over the age of 18 will be required to show full proof of vaccination, effective February 1.