3 Jan 2021

Covid-19: UK and US travellers to need pre-departure tests before departing to NZ

11:51 am on 3 January 2021

All travellers from the United Kingdom or the United States will need a negative test result for Covid-19 before departing for New Zealand, the government has confirmed today.

Travellers queue with their luggage in the departures hall at Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport in west London on December 21, 2020,

Photo: AFP

The new rules will come into effect from 15 January. Travellers from the UK and the US will still have to go through New Zealand's 14-day quarantine regime.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said work was already underway to extend the requirement to other long haul flights to New Zealand.

"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."

Epidemic concept COVID-19. Coronavirus Test Station. 
Medical worker in full protective gear takes sample from patient at a COVID-19 drive-thru test site.

Photo: 123RF

Earlier this week, the government announced an extra day one Covid-19 test, in addition to the day three and 12 tests, as an extra layer of protection amid new variants of the virus emerging overseas.

But it was warned that introducing a pre-departure Covid-19 test for desperate Kiwis trying to get home from high-risk countries may create unfair barriers.

Hipkins said the government was aware that the new requirement would add to the stress of travellers wanting to get to New Zealand, but it will provide further assurance for New Zealanders "at a time when infections from the virus appears to be accelerating overseas".

He said a "very limited number" of people may be exempt, including if they have a medical certificate verifying they have been examined within 72 hours prior to their departure, but are unable to undertake a test for medical reasons and do not exhibit symptoms of Covid-19.

Hipkins said a detailed plan was being developed with airlines and will be "widely communicated" in time for 15 January.

"Enforcement will be managed by an amendment to New Zealand's Air Border Order to make arriving in New Zealand via the air border without evidence of a negative approved test an infringement offence.

"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."