Highlanders say Covid-19 ‘taken incredibly extremely seriously’ after flight mask complaint

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark says his club has a zero-tolerance attitude to Covid-19 breaches.

Joe Allison / Getty Images

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark says his club has a zero-tolerance attitude to Covid-19 breaches.

Highlanders chief executive Roger Clark says the club takes its Covid-19 responsibilities “incredibly seriously” after receiving a complaint from a passenger about incorrect mask use on a flight from Wellington to Dunedin on Sunday.

Stuff understands the complaint relates to three players who were seated in the same row. The trio had masks but had not been wearing them properly until they were asked to do so.

Clark said it was “incredibly disappointing” that the players had not been compliant throughout the flight, but said it did not reflect a lax attitude at the club.

“We have a Covid committee that meets up to three times a day,” Clark told Stuff on Thursday.

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“This is taken incredibly extremely seriously by the clubs, and protecting our people, and the health of our people, and everyone around us.”

The Highlanders revealed “a couple” of Covid-19 cases within their squad on Wednesday, but thus far the spread of the virus seems to have been contained to those players.

Clark and the Highlanders flew to Auckland on Thursday in preparation for their game against the Blues on Friday, as Covid-19 continues to cause serious problems for the Super Rugby Pacific competition.

New Zealand Rugby confirmed on Thursday that the Hurricanes v Moana Pasifika game scheduled for Saturday had been postponed due to an outbreak in the Hurricanes camp.

Super Rugby clubs, therefore, are highly motivated not only to follow public health guidance for the good of their communities, but also their own prospects in the competition.

Highlanders head coach Tony Brown said on Wednesday: “We’ve just got to adapt and move on, and prepare to play, and prepare to play well.

“Ultimately, the healthiest team at the end of this competition might end up winning it.

“That’s got to be our mindset as a team and an organization.”

When contacted about the mask complaint involving the Highlanders, Air New Zealand released a statement to Stuff that read: “We find the majority of our customers to be supportive of the government requirement to wear a face covering on board our flights.

“There are a small number of customers who have legitimate reasons to not wear a mask, such as medical or other reasons, and may have an exemption.

“Under the government requirements exemption cards are not mandatory so we have to trust our customers to do the right thing and follow public health guidance, and in the vast majority this is what we see.

“We take our responsibility to keep both our customers and our people safe, seriously.

“This includes a requirement for all passengers 12 years and older to either show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test result to travel on any of our flights around the country, this has been the case since December 2021 . “

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