Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell praises self-isolation trial after return home

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell, self-isolating at home in Auckland after his first overseas business trip in nearly two years, has rated the public health supervision and monitoring as “thorough”.

Hurrell secured a spot in the Government’s self-managed isolation trial for 150 business travellers for his two-week trip to Europe, the UK and Dubai, and is praising the work of health workers monitoring him.

While businessman Sir Ian Taylor and an Auckland professional sailor who won’t be named have branded their experience in the pilot as shambolic and disorganised, Hurrell, who heads New Zealand’s biggest business, has no such complaints.

“I couldn’t speak highly enough of the people I’m dealing with. They’re friendly and helpful.”

Part of his regular checks and monitoring by health workers are “three or four” random phone checks a day, daily surveys on his wellbeing and having to prove his house isolation signage is correct by taking a photo.

“It’s quite thorough.”

However, asked to comment on the Government’s response to the Delta outbreak as far as Fonterra and NZ Inc is concerned, he said it “hasn’t been clear enough”.

“We are seeing people looking for some certainty and clarity, and we’re starting to see an element of frustration creeping in.

“We live with uncertainty in business every day. Setting some goals and going for it even if things change is what we live with in business. But people want clarity.”

Hurrell had to make do with a paper from the Ministry of Health certifying he was double-vaccinated because that’s all the Government could offer at the time he left.

“It’s effectively what’s on that little card you get. But Europe, the UK and Dubai are running a QR code system, whereby my certificate had nothing to do with a QR code so it took a bit of explaining.

“I just put it in my pocket – it was looking pretty ratty by the end of every couple of days.”

Hurrell said overseas travel in a Covid world was “relatively seamless” aside from mask wearing and the need for vaccination proof and constant testing. In the UK he did his own Covid lateral flow testing.

“I felt life was as normal, just with another complexity thrown in.”

His flights in the Southern Hemisphere were pretty empty, but full in the Northern Hemisphere.

Masks were required on public transport and worn between venues, but in meetings theyweren’t required.

He was pleased, but not surprised, to see Fonterra’s teams in Europe and the Middle East hadn’t let lengthy lockdowns slow down business progress.

“They’d got on and done what they needed to – new product initiatives, new partnerships and new brands on shelves in places like Dubai. It was really pleasing to see [Fonterra products] shelf presence in Carrefour in Dubai, the biggest supermarket through the Middle East.”

A major plus for Fonterra during pandemic lockdowns had been having senior leaders in its key markets such as China, Europe and Oceania-Pacific.

Customers and trade officials he had met acknowledged the “strong approach” New Zealand had taken to the Covid threat last year and were envious at that point, he said.

“That said, they are starting to get some freedom back and also acknowledged there were some things New Zealand needs to get on with to catch up.”

Hurrell said the timing of his first trip overseas co-incided with those countries opening up and did not require lengthy isolation on arrival. If he’d gone before the pilot was announced, he’d have had to rely on the MIQ lottery to get back. He didn’t think Fonterra’s economic clout would’ve eased his return and nor would he have expected it to given other Kiwis were trying to come home.

Hurrell hopes to travel to South East Asia in the New Year.

China, Fonterra’s largest market, is off the map for now because it requires three weeks isolation on arrival.

He encouraged New Zealand business people to get offshore.

“New Zealand is a long way from our markets generally and the rest of the world is starting to move. If there’s any opportunity to get in front of customers and partners they should do that.

“It’s certainly my recommendation that people get that locked in as soon as they can.”

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