The government has officially required nearly every traveler to New Zealand to test negative for Covid-19 before boarding a plane.
The new rules will come into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, January 25 – this is in an effort to minimize disruption to passengers leaving soon.
This regulation was signed last week by Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins. Previously, only travelers from the UK and US needed to test negative in order to come to New Zealand.
Starting January 25, it has been extended to any incoming tourists, except Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Island nations.
But not all Pacific Island countries are excluded – Papua New Guinea, which has nearly 1,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, is not on the list.
Likewise with French Polynesia, where 17,000 cases have been confirmed and 126 people have died from Covid-19.
Hipkins also said that the Government was “exploring several possibilities” whether they could get a small amount of the Covid-19 vaccine to frontline workers earlier than previously hinted at.
“If we can do it, we will be able to do it very quickly – but it all depends on whether the vaccine company will supply it,” he told a news conference this afternoon.
He would not elaborate because it is “quite a sensitive international negotiation”.
Hipkins said the new measures would not stop Covid from entering the country, but the government’s aim was to reduce the number of cases.
He said nearly all travelers had complied with the rules so far, and airlines were “very supportive”.
“New Zealand is not alone here – many countries are now proposing this.”
Hipkins said airlines have been vigilant to ensure travelers have followed the rules before they board their flights to NZ.
Asked about New Zealand’s access to the Covid vaccine, Hipkins said “we are very close to the front of the queue”. The first deliveries will arrive in the first quarter – “that’s the earliest time we can get … that’s the reality of manufacturing”.
Starting February 8, all passengers arriving in New Zealand – except those from exempt countries – without evidence of an approved negative test or medical certificate will be subject to an offense fee or a fine of up to $ 1000.
Hipkins said that so far only one person from the US or UK has not tested negative for Covid-19.
He added that airlines are increasingly refusing to board people who fail to produce negative tests.
But he said the Government could increase the fine if there was a higher level of non-compliance.
In addition to the new pre-departure requirements, the Government has also changed the rules surrounding Covid-19 testing in New Zealand’s managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities.
From now on, travelers arriving to New Zealand will be required to take the test on arrival – again, except for Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Island countries.
They still have to undergo quarantine for 14 days, and undergo routine tests on the third and 12th day.
“New Zealand already has some of the strictest border protection measures in the world,” Hipkins said this morning.
“Today’s amendments further strengthen that position in line with the Government’s overall elimination strategy, and more actions can be added as needed.”
Asked about potential contact between people at MIQ facilities, such as in designated smoking areas, Hipkins said the Government has tightened social distancing measures.
Hipkins said the primary obligation was on travelers to comply with regulations – but airlines were also expected to play a role in checking whether passengers had negative test evidence.
Full list of countries and territories not included in the expanded pre-departure requirements:
• Cook Islands
• Federated States of Micronesia
• Marshall Island
• New Caledonia
• Solomon Islands
• Wallis and Futuna.