NZ to require pre-departure Covid-19 tests for most countries starting next week

The requirement for a negative pre-departure Covid-19 test before coming into New Zealand will come into force at 11.59pm on Monday, Government officials announced today. 

It does not include Australia, Antarctica or most Pacific Islands. Currently it only applies to the US and UK.

If passengers from outside the exempted countries arrive into New Zealand without proof of a negative test or medical certificate, they could be fined up to $1000 from February 8.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that "given the high rates of infection in many countries, most global air routes are of critical concern for the foreseeable future".

"New Zealand is currently in a good position with no community cases, but we continue to take action with very specific steps to further strengthen our borders in response to what we’re seeing overseas."

The Government signaled the change was incoming last week – after Opposition parties National and ACT had been calling for mandatory pre-departure tests for months.

When asked last week why it was being implemented now, Hipkins said there were logistical challenges.

"In some places getting a good, reliable pre-departure test is incredibly challenging. 

"Some of those other countries it is more difficult, so we're making sure we can have systems in place where people can get the tests before we make that a mandatory requirement." 

The possibility of people providing fraudulent test results is one of the issues Hipkins said he was working through. 

Since Friday, travellers coming into New Zealand from the UK and US have needed to return a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours before departure. 

Hipkins said already high rates of compliance had been shown from these passengers and only one person under compassionate grounds had not produced a test.  

Asked if $1000 was enough of a deterrent, Hipkins said it was alongside a number of airlines who refused passengers from boarding if they could not produce a test. 

"If we were to see people were not complying, then we'd look at [increasing the fine]."

Exempt countries

The Cook Islands
Federated States of Micronesia
Marshall Islands
New Caledonia
Solomon Islands
Wallis and Futuna.