We’ve taken a careful and staged approach to reopening our borders to ensure we aren’t overwhelmed with an influx of COVID-19 cases. Our strategy has worked and as a result, it’s safe to lift pre-departure test requirements much sooner than planned.
We had intended to remove the requirement for travellers to have a pre-departure test by 31 July. But with cases continuing to decline despite over 387,000 arrivals since borders reopened, there is evidence this measure can now be lifted.
Around 90% of international arrivals undertake their required testing once they are in the country, with only a 2-3% positivity rate. So we don’t anticipate a significant increase in border cases once the requirement is lifted.
In addition, the challenges pre-departure tests pose to visitors are now no longer outweighed by the public health benefits.
Factors such as the availability of and cost of getting a test are increasingly becoming a barrier for people intending to travel here, especially as other countries wind back testing availability or the requirement for a test on entry themselves.
While the pre-departure test requirements are being removed, we are keeping in place a set of border surveillance measures for detecting any possible new variants of COVID-19.
In order to understand what new strains of COVID are arriving at the border, travellers will still be required to self-test on Day 0/1 and again on Day 5/6. If the result of either test is positive, they must then get a PCR test.
The end of pre-departure testing is just one of a number of changes that are being made to the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Air Border) Order to ensure our public health measures remain proportionate to the risk COVID-19 presents to the community.
Also from Monday evening, passengers transiting through New Zealand will no longer need to be vaccinated, nor be required to complete a New Zealand Traveller Declaration.
Travellers with COVID-19-like symptoms (for example hayfever) will also be able to choose between showing a negative COVID test, or a certificate from a health professional ― stating that they are unlikely to have COVID-19 ― before travelling.
Another change will see the maximum penalty for breaching the Air Border Order’s vaccination requirement reduced from $4,000 to $1,000.
These changes represent important progress in our ongoing management of COVID-19 and our reconnecting strategy.