In the latest phase of its gradual reopening, New Zealand is ending pre-departure Covid-19 tests for travellers whose first international flight to the country departs after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday, June 20.
The New Zealand government said most travellers still need to be vaccinated and take two rapid antigen tests (RAT) after arrival, while transit travellers no longer need to be vaccinated nor complete the country’s traveller declaration.
New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister, Dr Ayesha Verrall said they had intended to remove the requirement for travellers to have a pre-departure test by 31 July, when borders fully reopen.
“But with cases continuing to decline despite over 387,000 arrivals since borders reopened there is evidence this measure can now be lifted,” she explained.
“Around 90 percent of international arrivals undertake their required testing once they are in the country, with only a 2-3 percent positivity rate. So we don’t anticipate a significant increase in border cases once the requirement is lifted.”
Dr Verrall said border surveillance measures to detect any possible new variants of Covid-19 would remain.
“In order to understand what new strains of COVID are arriving at the border travellers will still be required to self-test on Day 1 and again on Day 5/6. If the result of either test is positive, they must then get a PCR test.”
Travellers with Covid-like symptoms including hay fever can choose between showing a negative Covid test or a certificate from a health professional that states they’re unlikely to have Covid, prior to travelling.
New Zealand’s updated entry protocols come a month after announcing that visa applications from 16 Pacific Islands Forum countries would be priority, with arrivals exempted from RAT including travellers from Nauru, Niue, Tokelau and Tuvalu.
“From 4 July all work visa categories will be open for applications, including the Accredited Employer Work Visa, and from 31 July all student and visitor visa categories will reopen,” the New Zealand Government said earlier.
“The maritime border will also reopen on 31 July.”
The list of eligible travellers to New Zealand currently includes citizens and residents, vaccinated Australian citizens and permanent residents, unvaccinated Australians residing in New Zealand, work and student visa holders and other select travellers.
Prior to Covid, leading visitor markets for New Zealand were Australia, China, the United States and United Kingdom. The biggest changes in New Zealand’s annual arrivals in the past year (April 2021-April 2022) have come from Australia, Vanuatu, the United Kingdom, Samoa and the Cook Islands.
Alongside Vanuatu and Fiji, New Zealand closed to international travel in March 2020 to contain Covid-19, though border exemptions were granted to select Pacific arrivals under the Recognized Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, for horticulture and viticulture industries.
Per RSE policy, eligible Pacific countries include Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.