On 12th March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) categorised the coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China as a pandemic. This was followed with a call for all countries to take “urgent and aggressive action” to change the course of the pandemic.
Almost three months on, the fortunes of nations around the globe vary greatly. New Zealand and Australia have managed to avoid the disastrous consequences witnessed in much of Europe and the United States of America. As both New Zealand and Australia start to wind back the restrictions placed on the movement of their residents, there is currently no end in sight for many elsewhere.
Following is a snapshot of the current affairs both locally and internationally.
On Monday 8th June, New Zealand moved down to coronavirus alert Level 1. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the decision, telling the country that after 75 days of New Zealand being in a Covid-19 alert, the country was ready to move to the most relaxed alert level. There have been no new Covid-19 cases for the seventeen straight days and there are no active cases of the coronavirus remaining in New Zealand. The last case of the virus spreading from an unknown source – a previously used definition of community transmission – occurred on April 30, according to data published by the Government's Environment Science and Research institute (ESR). This will mean that life is returning to something approximating a pre-coronavirus normal. Social distancing measures and restrictions on mass gatherings would disappear, although strict border controls would still be in force, as would contact tracing.
At Alert Level 1, everyone can return without restriction to work, school, sports and domestic travel, and you can get together with as many people as you want.
Controls at the borders remain for those entering New Zealand, including health screening and testing for all arrivals, and mandatory 14 day managed quarantine or isolation.
New Zealand businesses are experiencing major disruptions as a result of COVID-19, including those businesses in offshore markets. Disruptions experienced by our exporters are also having flow-on effects to the domestic economy.
There are no formal restrictions on market access for the vast majority of goods exports and imports as a result of COVID-19 but the global pandemic continues to place pressure on global supply chains, and is disrupting trade flows and the wider international economy.
The border restrictions that took effect on 16 March 2020 apply to people and not freight. Sea freight routes remain open for both imports and exports, and all freight is permitted to be moved within New Zealand.
However, primary industry exporters continue to experience a level of disruption to their trade in a number of markets due to issues related to delays in ports and the wider global transport network.
There have also been some improvements in the flow of freight as business activity picked up in China following restrictions being lifted to allow people to return to work.
MPI, MFAT and NZTE are continuously monitoring developments to look for ways they can provide support to our exporters during this unprecedented event.
New Zealand has not closed its border to goods or trade and there are no restrictions on the movement of freight. All freight can enter and leave the country. Imports and exports may continue to operate on the same basis as pre COVID-19. Both essential and non-essential goods are being cleared by border agencies, with an additional specific focus on identifying and expediting critical supplies. Goods transport is an essential service and can continue to operate. All freight can also be distributed and received. This does not change restrictions on the businesses, which remain unable to trade under this alert level, except to receive goods.
Flight cancellations by airlines are affecting airfreight shipments. The Government has set aside $600 million for the aviation sector to ensure New Zealand’s key airfreight services remain open for critical imports and exports, including food.
NZTE has a dedicated website that brings today's information from around the world to help exporters mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Government's central resource for COVID-19 business information with updates about COVID-19 and guidance to help businesses.
Effective from Monday 25 May 2020, there are some minor amendments to operating hours at the Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington Air NZ Cargo CTOs. These are listed here.
Air NZ will look to adjust these as necessary but for now we believe these are appropriate for the various operations as we move back out of the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and back to a new “normal” in cargo operations.
Where necessary Air NZ may be able to offer cargo acceptance and delivery outside of these hours, but this is strictly by prior agreement and may incur additional fees as outlined below: If you require your cargo to be accepted outside published hours extra charges will apply; plenty of advance warning and acceptance is required.
The current COVID-19 situation has created a lot of uncertainty for our exporters, particularly around air freight capacity and scheduling. The Government moved quickly to ensure New Zealand has the supplies it needs and to back our exporters by keeping open air channels to key international markets.
The International Airfreight Capacity (IAFC) scheme, announced on 1st May 2020, builds on that support, with a schedule of weekly flights to a greater number of global markets. This new schedule restores more export markets to more businesses and with greater frequency: 1) Latest scheduled air freight options. 2) Chartered Air Freight Options.
The number of cases outside of China continues to rise rapidly, with the United States hardest hit. Spain, Italy, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Brazil, Turkey, Russia and Iran have all also surpassed China in terms of number of reported cases. 213 countries and territories have confirmed cases of coronavirus, with almost 6,200,000 diagnoses (approximately 50% active) and 371,366 deaths recorded as at 3rd June 2020. The United States death toll alone equates to approximately 28% of all fatalities globally.
Following is information collated for various countries, however importers and exporters are advised to check with your clients, suppliers and freight forwarders for further country specific information.
New Zealand is lifting their restrictions even further with the news that from Friday 29th May the 10-person limit for gatherings will be increased to 100 people. Cabinet will review the level 2 restrictions again on 8th June, but no consideration will be given to a move to level 1 restrictions until at least 22nd June. Residents are urged to remain vigilant and continue the good work that has seen no new cases reported in over 10 days.
Governments around the world had all imposed similar restrictions to those witnessed in Australia. Some countries went further and implemented full lockdown restrictions. These respective Governments are introducing large financial packages designed to minimise disruptions and job loss while assisting those that are stood down with rapid access to benefits.
European nations are easing their lockdown restrictions, in some cases to significant discontent from their residents. Many cafes and restaurants are open for business, albeit with observance of social distancing guidelines, and many shops and other businesses are reopening with limits on the number of patrons allowed at any one time. The United Kingdom is also pushing ahead with a lifting of restrictions, including reopening of schools, despite the fact the virus transmission does not appear to be under control.
The United Kingdom has surpassed the death toll of Spain and Italy, with the figure standing at 38,376 as at 3rd June 2020.
Thoughts also begin to turn back to Brexit. Following on the heels of Covid-19 there are concerns that many businesses on the verge of collapse could face closure without clarity regarding the deal. With the economy shrinking (reports estimate a 14% contraction for 2020), a hard exit and the associated tariff increases and paperwork confusion could prove too much for many companies.
Germany has started to ease restrictions, with many shops and public spaces starting to reopen to the public. This has seen an increase in infection rates, a stark contrast to the minimal transmission rates while the country was under lockdown.
The EC has unveiled a new guide for member states to implement “green lanes” for freight at EU borders. This is an effort to avert lengthy queues and allow critical goods to move more freely, particularly from eastern Europe. Queues on the Polish / German border were at points stretching to 50 kilometres. The new measures are hoped to reduce border processing times to fifteen minutes.
Reports from the United States estimate over 36 million jobs have been lost resulting from the outbreak, as at 25th May 2020. President Trump has suspended entry to passengers that have been in Brazil within 14 days prior to seeking admittance. Memorial Day weekend has seen thousands ignore the social distancing guidelines issued by the Government, something likely to see a delay to significant easing of restrictions.
India has today, 25th May, resumed domestic air travel with the advice that passengers self-monitor their health for 14 days.
Dubai has been gradually opening malls, shops and restaurants over the last two weeks.
Colombia has extended its initial quarantine period to now end on 11th May 2020.
Brazil and Russia has seen a huge rise in the number of cases, approximately 500,000 and 400,000 respectively.
South Africa began relaxing restrictions from 1st May. Further easing of restrictions has taken place however parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on level 4 restrictions.
Kuwait has imposed a full curfew until 30th May 2020 to stem the spread of coronavirus.
A global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is being exacerbated by Governments impounding exports of goods for their own needs. The United States has been accused by the German Government of “modern piracy” as many legitimate shipments of PPE are not reaching their intended destination. As Governments and states compete for PPE, so too are many retailers and warehouse operators, as they look to provide equipment for their staff. Add to this the fact that many Governments are seizing sub-standard medical supplies before they make it to market and it appears that the shortage will not be filled anytime soon.
Freight Forwarders globally are being asked to be vigilant as criminals attempt to exploit the Covid-19 situation by pushing fake medicines and PPE into supply chains. These items pose a significant risk to individuals as they offer little to no protection against the virus and are likely to cost lives. In Australia, businesses can provide anonymous tips to the Australian Border Force through their Border Watch program.
Australia’s reported cases sits at 7,195 as at 3rd June with 103 reported fatalities from the virus. This equates to roughly 80 new cases in a little over a week, a very positive sign for the Government and entire population. States are beginning to relax restrictions with schools and some services resuming in all states. Victoria will be the last state to have all students return to school, week commencing 8th June. The Federal Government is keen to see a return to business as soon as possible and is urging the states to implement plans to make it happen. How this will be managed is being left to the states to coordinate, however it is expected that many employers and employees will handle the return very slowly, with some expecting a “new normal” in the way that business is run. Some states have already begun with restaurants and cafes reopening, although larger gatherings are still some way off, as is unrestricted movement across state borders.
The delivery of all Australian Government services has been classified as essential services by the Federal Government. All biosecurity and imported food inspection operations will continue to be delivered, including treatments offered by third parties that are, by extension, considered essential services. The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is currently working on business continuity plans for their various operations in a bid to minimise impacts and reallocate resources where volumes have increased or decreased as a direct result of the pandemic. Further information will follow as it becomes available.
On 30th March 2020, the Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958 were temporarily amended to prohibit the non-commercial export of certain medical goods from Australia. These items include disposable face masks, gloves and gowns as well as protective eyewear and alcohol wipes and hand sanitiser.
Australian importing associations have been in discussions with ATO and Treasury in an attempt to have the Government allow deferral of duty and GST for all importers. The logic was that many importers will be feeling the pinch due to lack of sales which will result in cashflow issues. With the Government’s commitment to trying to ensure businesses retain their staff this seems a logical step, and one taken by several other countries globally. Australian Border Force recently announced that it will not make any blanket provisions for the deferral of duties, but it will consider extending payment plans to businesses on a case by case basis where applicable.
The ATO does already operate a deferred GST scheme which is available to all importers that meet with the set requirements, namely monthly online lodgement of their Business Activity Statement and no outstanding debts. ATO is currently fast-tracking these applications so any importers feeling uneasy regarding their cashflow may wish to investigate this scheme.
The Australian Government announced on 30th April 2020, the implementation of a new temporary Bylaw to allow the importation of certain goods for use in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of spread of coronavirus. The Bylaw is in force from 1st February 2020 until 31 July 2020, with refund provisions available, and allows items such as face masks; gloves; gowns and clothes; goggles, glasses, eye visors and face shields; disinfectants (excluding hand sanitisers); soaps; Covid 19 test kits and reagents; and viral transport media, to be imported free from duty.
The reduction of import volumes is expected to continue for another two to three months at least, as production and export of goods from major trading partners in Europe and North America continues to stagnate.
The Australian Government has released its COVIDSafe App, which tracks movement of persons and allows traceability of those movements in the event somebody later contracts the virus. Residents are urged to download the app as a large uptake should result in the lifting of some restrictions across the country. Current figures indicate over six million downloads of the app, still a long way short of the Federal Government’s 40% target.
China continues to test non-symptom patients in an effort to control community transmission that led to a brief second wave of cases. Reported cases sit at 83,001 as at 3rd June with 4,634 reported fatalities.
Most new cases being diagnosed in China are ‘imported’ cases (reported at 63) and there has been a small spike in the past two weeks. Most large cities have kept entertainment facilities closed in a bid to avoid a second wave of diagnoses.
The city of Shulan in NE China was locked down from 10th May resulting from a small cluster of new cases. There are reportedly 108 cases being treated in 12 Chinese cities.
China Customs Notice No.53 of 10th April 2020 has confirmed that eleven medical related items will now be inspected to ensure the quality of exported goods. This appears to be in response to claims globally of inferior product being exported as brand name goods. These shipments can expect delays. The goods in question are PPE, thermometers, ventilators, hair nets, protective glasses and goggles, medical gloves, shoe covers, patient monitoring devices, medical wadding and gauze and disinfectants.
Henning Harders has successfully implemented its “Work from Home” contingency arrangements. Supported by our advanced operating system development, this was managed in stages to ensure a seamless transition with no business interruption.
By carefully managing the relocation of resources in stages throughout the last week, we are now positioned to ensure both the safety and wellbeing of our staff as well as the continued operations and service our business partners and clients have grown accustomed to.
Our employee email signatures have been updated with direct line details to allow for ease of contact.
As the news of the outbreak is ever-changing, we will continue to update stakeholders as news develops.
Please contact your Henning Harders Key Account Manager for further information.