Five flights to repatriate hundreds of Britons stranded in New Zealand

More than 1,500 Britons stranded in New Zealand will be repatriated on five charter flights beginning this week.

Those most at risk from coronavirus, like those with existing health conditions, pregnant women, or the elderly, will be prioritised on three flights leaving Auckland and two from Christchurch, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said.

The first plane is expected to depart on Friday and flights will continue to run every second day, with alternating departures from Auckland and Christchurch, the FCO said.

Services are being part-funded by the Government’s £75 million scheme to organise flights from countries where commercial services have been halted due to the pandemic.

However tickets back from New Zealand will cost £800 per person. Travellers able to prove financial hardship may be able to get an emergency loan from public funds.

Lord Goldsmith, the minister responsible for New Zealand, said: “We promised we would do everything we could to help get Britons home.

“Getting a commercial flight from New Zealand is now extremely difficult, so we are now going to bring back vulnerable British travellers on charter flights and will continue to support those who remain in the country.”

Some 2,600 Britons have returned to the UK on commercial flights from New Zealand since the outbreak began, the FCO said.

The FCO says it has so far brought back more than 7,300 people on 35 flights from 13 countries and is currently pushing to bring back thousands more across the globe.

It also estimates that 1.3 million people have returned to the UK on commercial flights since the end of January, when concerns about coronavirus began to escalate.

However, tens of thousands of Britons remain unable to get home from countries around the world, including some still stuck in Peru after being unable to access the UK’s final rescue flight from the country.