Govt plans to require more travellers to present negative Covid-19 test results before coming to NZ and commits to introducing an additional day 0/1 test for those in managed isolation

Govt plans to require more travellers to present negative Covid-19 test results before coming to NZ and commits to introducing an additional day 0/1 test for those in managed isolation
Image sourced from needpix

The Government is preparing to start requiring more travellers to receive negative Covid-19 test results before coming to New Zealand.

On January 3 it announced travellers from the UK and US would need to meet this new pre-departure test requirement from 11.59pm, January 15.

Today, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he signed an amendment to the Air Border Order authorising the Director-General of Health to expand the pre-departure test requirement to “all countries and territories excluding Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Island nations”.

The requirement is expected to be applied to travellers from countries beyond the UK and US soon.

The move comes as more contagious new strands of Covid-19 wreak havoc around the world. 

Under the rule, travellers need to have received a negative test result from an accredited laboratory within 72 hours before departure. They need to present this result to Customs on arrival.

Should they fail to do so, they’ll be fined up to $1000. The penalty will only take effect on January 29.

Hipkins also announced that from January 18, travellers will start receiving an additional Covid-19 test during their two-week stay in managed isolation. This will occur on day 0/1. Testing will continue on days 3 and 12.

The National Party has been calling for pre-departure testing for some time. It wants this to be mandatory for all overseas travellers. 

More information on pre-departure testing

Children under two will be exempt from pre-departure testing. 

Passengers transiting through the UK and US for less than 96 hours before departing for New Zealand will also be exempt "for now", according to Hipkins.

Other exemptions will apply to people with medical conditions and those who can present a medical certificate confirming they have recovered from Covid-19 and are no longer infectious.

RT-PCR tests, LAMP and viral antigen tests will be accepted.

"Under the Order, the primary obligation is on passengers to comply, but airlines are also expected to play a key role in checking documentation where practicable," Hipkins said.

He said travellers affected by the new rule should work with airlines to rebook flights and contact MIQ for information about their booking.

“If New Zealanders overseas require consular assistance due to travel disruption, they should contact their nearest embassy or consulate," he said.

“We have also decided that in rare cases, the requirement of a test 72 hours in advance may be extended to 96 hours if a person’s flight has been delayed or cancelled, or test results haven’t been received in time. In this situation, the flight must be rescheduled or rebooked to depart within 24 hours.

“We’ll continue to communicate details around the new requirements via covid19.govt.nz and Unite Against COVID-19 social media, website, the SafeTravel website, and directly to airlines."

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35 Comments

I hear that health care staff are quietly being told to prepare for April vaccination. So hopefully the public pronouncements on vaccine timeline are a case of under promising and over delivering.

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This lot are asleep at the wheel. Running a reactive game of catch up at best. Remember that at the outset of covid they were totally passive until a bunch of notable NZ'rs lined them up and told them to get off their backsides. At this stage they should be requiring pre-flight tests for everyone via a NZ arranged test regime through trustworthy major pharmacy chains reporting back to the NZ govt directly. Further all travel from the USA, UK, South Africa and India should be stopped until all NZ and prospective arrivals have been vaccinated.
Sure people are going to bleat and moan. Tough, get over it! Sh... happens. Life isn't always fair. How does their convenience line up against the possibly tens of billions of dollars shut down costs and lost lives lost if the new strain gets into the community.

Vaccination will not necessarily stop you getting COVID according to the UK NHS - There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the vaccine.
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccinati...

yep -- even 90% means 100 out of every 1000 people are possible carriers -- I am all in favour of any additional restrictions they can think of at this stage ! its out lets keep it out -- i dont see anythign in the last three montsh that says NZ is worse off for the border being closed -- in fact the opposite!

The border is not exactly closed.. we are getting 11000 a month through the MIQ hotels. Very surprised we don't have community transmission yet.

Yup, they're asleep at the wheel...we're battling constant community transmission, no vaccines have been procured, our hospitals are overwhelmed, and our economy in tatters...Oh, wait...

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Remember the 100 covid free days of 2020 that we wasted? Stroking ourselves and gloating to the world. Instead of strengthening our borders and test and trace capability. Remember what happened then? I have a sense of deja vu all over a again.
Remember the critical report prepared in September and released in the dying days of December? Contact tracing is apparently still not adequate to cope with a major outbreak. Don't confuse good luck with good management. More opacity than transparency I would say.

...But it wasn't 100 days of 'no community transmission' - it was 100 days during which testing numbers got slow and getting a test got so difficult that we couldn't pick up community spread, until by chance we did because someone got sick enough to go to the doctor and get tested.

How many cases have we in the community? Some of you people live in a strange alternative reality.

How many reports commissioned by the Govt themselves showing major flaws and discrepancies between what we were being told and what was actually happening do you need to see before you accept that luck has played a significant role in our current situation?

GV 27, usually I find your posts to be honest and insightful particularly regarding complex issues. However I can't help but sense some cognitive dissonance possibly based on some partisan views. Surely you don't believe that something as complex and coordinated as a (successful) pandemic response can be put down to a significant amount of luck? I can't help but feel you are looking for 'black spots in a white room' here...

The best luck we have had is having a govt that did not gamble with public health and provided a not perfect, but perfectly acceptable navigation through this mess.

You're assuming that any successful outcome must be entirely down to competent management. By the Government's own reports, this has not been the case, and there have been numerous instances where the public has been told things that officials could not have known - charitably you could say this was an issue of competence in a fast-moving situation - but if it were not for some proper investigative journalism from the likes of Michael Morrah, we may never have found out what was actually going on with border testing until we were at Level 4 again. At worse, the public was misled by statement or by omissions on several occasions; I cannot find that 'acceptable'. I find people start from a position of "how can we pat ourselves on the back given where we ended up" and then work backwards - this is not an effective way to assess or improve a process. Perhaps it's just deeply-ingrained professional cynicism.

As for 'partisanship'; I find people are defensive of our response because of where we ended up, perhaps due to (justifiable, I might add) pride in how NZ as a whole worked through lockdowns. But I'm also aware that this cost has not been borne equally (job growth in Wellington while other regions go backwards, some public servants on 8 weeks fully paid leave while a huge number of people took involuntary paycuts at short notice or lost jobs entirely) so I do not think it is unreasonable to be disappointed when the Government's words and actions have not lined up.

For the record, I have been impressed by the recent campaigns around 'stopping summer' and the changes to border testing and the response teams deserve acknowledgement for that.

Our large moat saved us from worse consequences = Luck. The government messaged superbly, but hid their failings. Burying the report till Christmas shows how damaging it was. Making excuses after the fact (lying about testing border workers), even back to isolation of travellers in March when my business implemented isolation protocols before the government!

Basic risk assessment, required under the H&SaW Act, would have found the flaws but nobody did it. We improved by failing first, and fixing later, even for known problems. In a business, WorkSafe would have had you in court for less.

Good luck with folks coming from developing nations like India - no offence

There are several vaccines for Covid19 that our government have apparently procured. Right now we have no community transmission.The highest chance of another outbreak is if it comes through one of the border facing workers in MIQ or elsewhere that have contact with Covid19 positive people on a daily basis. Some carrying the highly infectious new strains.
Would it not be a good idea to fly in just a few thousand doses of the vaccine right now to vaccinate the front line MIQ workers. The extra layer of protection that would give us would be worth it. We are subsidizing AIR NZ to fly multiple times a week to LAX.Just fly the 787 on to the closest airport to the distribution center and pick up some vaccine. The additional cost in the scheme of things is inconsequential. The vaccine can last 10 days in the factory shipper and another 5 days refrigerated. Plenty of time to administer a few thousand doses to front line workers. A bit of out of the box thinking could save us from a potential $100 mln ++ level 4 lockdown. https://www.pfizer.com/news/hot-topics/covid_19_vaccine_u_s_distribution....
Right now we are rolling the dice every day. Eventually they will come up snake eyes.

This is not a normal well tested vaccine, it comes with risk of severe reaction and higher than most vaccines chance of death. The effectiveness is based on a short term trials where maybe just under 600 people were exposed to the virus.
Our boarder staff are individually not likely to catch COVID, some may refuse to take the vaccine and those that do become complacent. I would think before full safety trials are completed that would be ethical problems forcing the staff to take a vaccine. Nothing in the boarder protocols could change with a vaccine, it would just be redundancy.
Plus to do this we might have to approve the vaccine and then be obligated to take delivery and begin a potentially harmful vaccine campaign which will have no benefit as there is exceptionally low risk of the NZ public being exposed, unless the vaccine maintain effectiveness until well after the boarders are opened.
I think we should wait at least a couple of months and see what happens when millions have been vaccinated.

Anyone who is lucky enough to be offered a vaccine and does not take it. Is a deluded selfish moron. Luckily the majority of people are capable of seeing the bigger picture beyond their own selves.

I have to agree, it's amazing to hear people would rather take their chances with covid than take a vaccine. The vaccine would have to be pretty dangerous to be worse than catching covid.

All of the data and corresponding logic and common sense that applies to childhood and travel vaccines is not yet been established here. If you want to find some stats and argue for it go a head but just asserting it still applies is unproductive.
What's the point in getting the vaccine if you not likely to be imminently exposed and your still complacent several months later when it may wear off.
You will have to go looking for instances of the vaccines going wrong, NZ's MSM will not. There are deaths of people who were likely to easily survive COVID.

I find it hard to understand why, having made a virtue of 'going hard and early', the government are not doing so now. Why not shut off all immigration for a period, other than a very few exceptions?
It would be very hard on those trying to get home, but a widespread lockdown would be much worse for the country.

Like many others, we have family in Australia and we want to see them asap, but at the risk of shutting down the country. What we have now is not perfect-see the hotal industry, but many if not most countries would love to be in our position.

Go hard and go early was spin on "we fkked up and covid is spreading in NZ".

So you don’t bother with a pre-departure negative test before flying – turn up at NZ’s door dripping in Covid and say “sorry” to NZ Customs – all the while somewhat bemused at the prospect of an “up to $1,000” soggy bus ticket.

This seems an incredibly lame response to a situation described “as more contagious new strands of Covid-19 wreak havoc around the world”.

It appears Australia has now overtaken us when it comes to prudent border policy.

Looks like they will be denied boarding so wont actually get here..i.e loose their flight. But how do you fine someone who isn't even here?

But how about of they do slip in (eg via a boat) are they sent packing?

prob not.

“Looks like they will be denied boarding” - great! - if it's so.

Not attacking – but can you point out the “who and how” of this denied boarding if it is the case – because I’m genuinely concerned that we keep pushing the boundaries of our “boundary” and I, like others, am in little mood to entertain any further lock-downs if due to weak or sloppy border protocols.

I’m getting a bit tired on being overweight with “being kind”.

According to the MIQ site .you MAY be denired boarding..if you attempt to travel without a satisfactory test result..
Not .you WILL be denied boarding.. It all seems rather unclear and the decision wether to be allowed to fly or not being being left up to individual airlines.
At the moment a significant number from the UK are testing positive on day 0/1 which means they've almost certainy travelled whilst infected. I can't see the potential of a fine of 'up to' $1000.00 changing many minds.

This seems better than our current situation, but leaves a big window for exposure in the lead-up to a flight - someone may not test positive at their day 0 test after picking it up after their pre-flight test, and then it's into the facilities and doing its thing.

We are importing the new covid-variant - 19 cases in 3 days

If the new Covid-Variant is more virulent, is 14 days MIQ sufficient?

Should it be 21 days or 28 days

Who knows

My concern with making pre-flight testing mandatory, is that it could introduce a bit of complacency at this end, which imho would be more dangerous than not doing pre-flight testing, and then as others have pointed out, how do ensure that no contact is had after that test has returned negative, which the way things are going in some places is almost guaranteed.

The MOH are an organization set up to run budgets for hospitals and they're pretty shit at even that. Anything mission critical is beyond them.

Suggested this months ago on here, its way to late as usual with this lot at the wheel. Also why is it taking us so long to get a few hundred vaccinations for front line staff at the isolation hotels ? By now we should have done that and been moving onto hospital staff because there is a really good chance this new strain goes viral in the community and people need to be hospitalised. Still the Labour party are probably all still at the beach, no rush.

Smile... be kind, hug a puppy, hug something... anything. Get your jim jams on, let's have a PJ party over FB. All will be well in incompetent Labour-land.

Meanwhile in the real world I personally believe NZ about to kick off exponential rental/ social housing crisis bordering on humanitarian crisis with impending rental laws. I think stuff could get ugly in that space, esp in conjunction with min wage increase. Wouldn't be surprised if St J has to enact emergency amendments to the new legislation to entice LL back.

Hang on a minute - Judith Collins asked for this very protocol months ago, and our Glorious Leader said it was a waste of time, wouldn't work, not needed, and legally impossible.... oh well, " Bedder Health, bedder edecation, and Homes for all", and how has all that worked out Jacinda...

The government should be buying the Pfizer vaccine even if its $1000 a shot for those managing the hotel isolation facilities. Remind me of how much a complete shutdown costs the country again if the new strain should get out ? its clearly so contagious now could it even be stopped if it gets out ? Serious questions, obvious answers to anyone thinking ahead.

They could fly 1000 people business class return to LAX to get the vaccine.Even if it's 10k per person it is only 10 million. Chicken feed in the scheme of things. An absurd sledgehamer to crack what should be a logistically simple nut. But every day we wait to vaccinate front line workers is another day of enormous risk to NZ INC. This link does not fill me with confidence
https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-nov...
Talking alot but not saying anything. Just do this!!

It's reassuring to know that there are scientists and clinicians kicking back against this madness https://youtu.be/EWNkJUDctdk