New Zealand began restricting the return of its own nationals Tuesday as the country faces an accelerating influx of citizens fleeing coronavirus outbreaks overseas and limited quarantine facilities.
National carrier Air New Zealand put a three-week freeze on new bookings and the government is in talks with other airlines to limit capacity, officials said.
New Zealand has gone 67 days without any cases of coronavirus in the community and its 22 active cases are all in managed quarantine facilities for New Zealanders flocking home from worsening epidemics elsewhere.
There are nearly 6,000 people currently undergoing the mandatory 14-day quarantine in the facilities and another 3,500 are due to arrive this week.
Housing Minister Megan Woods said the government was working to add to its 28 isolation facilities but had to be certain the new sites were fit for purpose.
"Air New Zealand has agreed to put a temporary hold on new bookings in the short term, as well as look at aligning daily arrivals with the capacity available at managed isolation facilities," Woods said.
"We are seeing rapid growth in the number of New Zealanders coming home as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens," she added.
"Our number one priority is stopping the virus at the border, so everyone must go into quarantine or managed isolation. The government is also talking to other airlines about managing flows."
Since New Zealand went into lockdown in March, nearly 27,000 people have gone through managed isolation and quarantine.
The nation of five million has recorded just under 2,000 cases of COVID-19, 22 of them fatal.