June 16, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier | Image: Queenstown, New Zealand

The New Zealand government has brought forward its timeline on abolishing pre-departure COVID-19 testing for international travellers entering the country, with the requirement to go in just over five days’ time.

However, post-arrival testing is set to stay.

“We’ve taken a careful and staged approach to reopening our borders to ensure we aren’t overwhelmed with an influx of COVID-19 cases,” said New Zealand’s COVID-19 Response Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall this morning.

“Our strategy has worked and as a result it’s safe to lift pre-departure test requirements much sooner than planned.

“We had intended to remove the requirement for travellers to have a pre-departure test by 31 July. But with cases continuing to decline despite over 387,000 arrivals since borders reopened there is evidence this measure can now be lifted.”

International arrivals are also currently required to take two self-administered RAT tests once they’ve touched down in New Zealand, on days 0/1 and days 5/6, and report the results to the Ministry of Health. This requirement will continue.

“Around 90 percent of international arrivals undertake their required testing once they are in the country, with only a 2-3 per cent positivity rate. So we don’t anticipate a significant increase in border cases once the requirement is lifted.

“I’m advised the challenges pre-departure tests pose to visitors are now no longer outweighed by the public health benefits.

“Factors such as the availability of and cost of getting a test are increasingly becoming a barrier for people intending to travel here, especially as other countries wind back testing availability or the requirement for a test on entry themselves,” said Verrall.

The business events industry has already welcomed the move with enthusiasm onsite at MEETINGS in Christchurch.

“The easier it is to get here, it’s easier to get staff, it’s easier also to bring our delegates here, particularly internationally,” said Ross Steele, general manager of Te Pae Christchurch, which is hosting the event. Steele made the comments on a walk around the venue with media yesterday, prior to the changes being announced.