The Government has officially made it mandatory for almost every traveller coming to New Zealand to produce a negative Covid-19 test before they board a plane.
The new rules will come into force at 11.59pm on Monday, January 25 – this is in a bid to minimise disruption for those passengers with imminent departures.
These rules were signalled last week by Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins. Previously, only travellers from the UK and the US needed to produce a negative test to come to New Zealand.
From January 25, that has been extended to every inbound traveller, with the exception of Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Island countries.
But not all Pacific Island countries are exempt – Papua New Guinea, which has close to 1000 confirmed Covid-19 cases, is not on the list.
Nor is French Polynesia, where 17,000 cases have been confirmed and 126 people have died from Covid-19.
Hipkins has also revealed that the Government is "exploring some possibilities" as to whether it could get a smaller number of Covid-19 vaccines to frontline workers earlier than had been previously signaled.
"If we can do, we will be able to do that very quickly – but it is all dependent on whether the vaccine companies will supply that," he said in a press conference this afternoon
He would not go into further details as they are "quite sensitive international negotiations".
Hipkins said the new measures wouldn't stop Covid coming into the country, but the Government's goal was to reduce the number of cases.
He said nearly all travellers were complying with the rules so far, and airlines had been "very supportive".
"New Zealand is not alone here - many many countries are now proposing this."
Hipkins said airlines had been vigilant about ensuring travellers had followed the rules before they boarded their flights to NZ.
Asked about New Zealand's access to the Covid vaccine, Hipkins said "we are very near the front of the queue". The first deliveries would arrive sometime in the first quarter - "that was the earliest we could get them ... that's just the reality of manufacturing".
From February 8, all passengers arriving in New Zealand - except those from exempted countries - without evidence of a negative approved test or medical certificate would incur an infringement offence fee or a fine of up to $1000.
Hipkins said there was only evidence of one person so far from the US or the UK who has not produced a negative Covid-19 test.
He added that airlines are increasingly refusing to board people who fail to produce a negative test.
But he said the Government could increase the fine if there is a higher level of noncompliance.
As well as the new pre-departure requirements, the Government has also changed the rules around Covid-19 testing in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities in New Zealand.
From now on, travellers coming to New Zealand will be required to have a test upon arrival – again, with the exception of Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Island countries.
They will still be required to stay in quarantine for 14 days, and to have routine tests on day three and day 12.
"New Zealand already has some of the most stringent border protection measures in the world," Hipkins said this morning.
"Today's amendments further strengthen that position in line with the Government's overall elimination strategy, and more measures can be added as necessary."
Asked about potential contact between people in MIQ facilities, such as in designated smoking areas, Hipkins said the Government had tightened social distancing measures.
Hipkins said the primary obligation is on the traveller to comply with the rules – but airlines will also be expected to play a role in checking if passengers have evidence of a negative test.
Full list of countries and territories not included in the expanded pre-departure requirement:
• The Cook Islands
• Federated States of Micronesia
• Marshall Islands
• New Caledonia
• Solomon Islands
• Wallis and Futuna.