Health authorities have admitted to overreacting to a health
scare at Auckland Airport but say it's better to be safe than
They swung into action after it was suspected dozens of Japanese students who had just landed had contracted the flu.
While ambulance staff were ready for the worst, the students at the centre of the scare came through the arrival gates, wondering what all the fuss was about.
"In hindsight we overreacted to this. But that's much better than underreacting," said Dr Richard Hoskins of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service.
The flight, NZ90 from Tokyo, was halted on the tarmac just after 9am this morning with 73 of the Japanese homestay students onboard suspected of carrying an unknown strain of influenza.
One passenger on the flight, David Turner from Wellington, said there were air staff everywhere, all wearing masks, "just sort of shepherding us to different places".
Passengers like Turner were left wondering why authorities took two hours to board the plane when they were told two hours before landing there was an issue.
A woman passenger said it was "just confusion" and nobody knew what was happening.
She said paramedics were uncoordinated in the way they were checking passengers' temperatures and pulses.
"The left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing. It was a disaster," the woman said.
Turner said even the captain kept coming on the intercom telling people how sorry he was that he had no idea what the situation was and when they could get off the plane.
Turner said ground staff panicked when he told them he had "a bit of a cold" and he was put in a room where the sick students were brought.
"I said 'I'm perfectly healthy, I've got a cold, I'm not going to be exposed to these guys'."
Turner said the sick students were then whisked to another room, but the whole situation was "a bit of a shambles".
'It does take time'
The Auckland Regional Public Health Service says it took time to deal with the alert.
"It does take time and I know that can be frustrating. But it's important to get it right," said Dr Julia Peters of the Auckland Regional Public Health Service.
The health service says passengers who were sitting in seats away from the student group were disembarked first and then assessed for signs of illness, provided with general health advice, and cleared to leave the airport and continue their journeys.
Passengers travelling in the student group, or in seats close to this group, were separately assessed and approximately 40 students were found to have a mild respiratory illness with symptoms of coughs or runny noses, it said.
None of the unwell passengers showed signs of influenza or had a feverish illness, and none required hospital assessment. These passengers were cleared to leave the airport at 12.38pm today, were provided with health advice and able to complete their journeys in New Zealand, the health service said.
The man running the homestay trip, Stuart Cundy of Let's Homestay, told ONE News he understands only a few of the students showed visible flu like symptoms, and from that another passenger raised the alarm.
"The whole group was actually vaccined back in November, leading into the Japanese winter. There's no influenza, there's no flu, and that's the official word from the authorities," Cundy said.
The diagnosis was that a few boys in the group had mild viral illnesses - little more than the common cold.
Four hours after landing, the largely healthy students left for
Tauranga, after what was an eventful start to their 10-day New