Work is underway to extend the requirement to other long-haul flights to New Zealand, it was confirmed today.
The new PCR test requirement, foreshadowed last week, will require travellers from the UK or the US to have a written form, certified by a laboratory or another form of approved evidence, showing a negative result in the 72 hours prior to departure. It will come into force on flights arriving in New Zealand after 11.59pm on 15 January.
Work is underway on similar measures for travellers using most other long-haul routes to New Zealand. We expect to be in a position to provide more details within the next week – after we get a more complete picture of testing regimes and capabilities in overseas jurisdictions.
A detailed plan to put the new requirement into action in the UK and the US is being developed with airlines and will be widely communicated in time for 15 January via the Immigration NZ website and contact centre, the SafeTravel website and communications directly to airlines so they can contact booked travellers.
Exemptions and enforcement
A very limited number of people may be exempt, including if they have a medical certificate verifying they have been examined within 72 hours before departure, but are unable to undertake a test for medical reasons. Individuals who have previously had COVID-19 and recovered will also require a medical certificate as evidence.
Enforcement will be managed by an amendment to New Zealand’s Air Border Order to make arriving in New Zealand without evidence of a negative approved test an infringement offence.
We know this will add to the stress of travellers wanting to get to New Zealand and have made this decision carefully. It will provide further assurance for New Zealanders at a time when infections from the virus appear be accelerating overseas.
MIQs are the bedrock of our border security
The managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system remains the bedrock of our border security. The new step is a further precaution to support our goal of making summer unstoppable and is consistent with the overall elimination strategy.
The pre-departure test is an additional requirement to the day zero/day one testing and stay in their room in MIQ requirement for arrivals from higher risk countries that came into force last Friday. Travellers from the UK and the US will still have to go through New Zealand’s 14-day quarantine regime.
It reduces the risk of infected passengers on international flights infecting other passengers with COVID-19.
We intend the test to also have an added benefit of encouraging extra-cautious behaviour before people fly and during flights and layovers that will minimise exposure to COVID-19.
Transit points for air routes to New Zealand
The Government is moving at pace to match or exceed the kinds of fast-changing travel requirements in many countries and at transit points for air routes to New Zealand.
Most of the main transit hubs for flights from the United Kingdom to New Zealand require passengers to have had a negative test 72 hours prior to departure, and Japan and China have currently stopped all flights from the United Kingdom.
It’s important, however, that we put our own safeguards in place. We’re at the end of long-haul flights or chains of flights and any actions we take to further strengthen our border must be based on our own unique set of circumstances.
We’re stepping though the options carefully to minimise any overlapping requirements on travellers or airlines.
We will announce these additional protections in stages over the coming weeks.