This follows growing global concerns, including from the World Health Organisation (WHO) about the lack of reliable data on case numbers in China and their work to address this.
In response, officials have done a public health risk assessment including working through scenarios of potential case numbers among travellers from China. This confirmed these visitors will not contribute significantly to our COVID-19 case numbers meaning entry restrictions are not required or justified.
There is a minimal public health risk to New Zealand. We know that BF7 is the prevalent variant in China and that it has not caused significant outbreaks in other countries that, like New Zealand, have already been exposed to the BA5 variant. So public health measures are not required to protect New Zealanders.
However, we do share the WHO’s concerns about the lack of information sharing and this is why we will be asking travellers arriving from China to help us gather more information. In the coming weeks, we will temporarily email a random sample of people who recently arrived from China to ask them to take a RAT test and share that information with health authorities. It is entirely voluntary and we had high uptake from international visitors when we used this method before.
It is important to note that new COVID-19 variants can arise from across the world, not just from China, which is why we are reminding arrivals from all countries to take the free RATs at the airport and test if they develop symptoms once in New Zealand.
In the coming weeks, ESR scientists will also pilot testing of wastewater from international flights and assess the feasibility of this method replacing the targeted and temporary voluntary testing that we have announced today for travellers from China.
Being up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccination, including your booster vaccination, continues to be your best protection against hospitalisation and severe disease. The current vaccines remain effective at reducing the risk of severe disease if you are infected with any of the variants currently circulating.
New Zealand continues to welcome visitors and tourists, and we ask that everyone follows the current public health measures, including staying home if you are unwell and isolating if you test positive for COVID-19.