The New Zealand government has approved Qatar Airways for a second daily flight from Auckland to Doha, as part of measures to help repatriate foreign nationals stranded in New Zealand.

Earlier, the carrier said on 26 March that it will operate flights to Brisbane for the first time and add seat capacity on routes to Australia and New Zealand.

The government is implementing various measures to allow its foreign counterparts to organise repatriation flights, with the first such flight, operated by Air New Zealand, expected to leave on 3 April.

Deputy prime minister and foreign minister Winston Peters said in a statement today: “Given that Air New Zealand intends to fly charter flights from New Zealand to Europe for European governments, we will explore the extent to which New Zealanders can return in the planes on the way back.”

Peters adds that any foreign nationals wishing to travel domestically must have a ticket for a confirmed and scheduled international flight out of New Zealand, while foreign governments wishing to organise repatriation flights must satisfy local health requirements.

“We are conscious that returning foreign nationals to their home countries will reduce the potential pressure on health services in New Zealand, and reduce the risk of welfare issues developing for those people who are stranded and unable to afford to be here much longer.”

New Zealand’s current Level 4 lockdown means that only those considered essential workers were allowed to travel by air, effectively stranding tourists requiring a domestic flight to get to Auckland International airport.

The restrictions have also decimated domestic demand for Air New Zealand, which on 2 April announced a bare minimum domestic schedule after transporting just 163 passengers on 1 April.