Govt reminds international arrivals to test for Covid

The Government is reiterating its advice to all international travellers to do a Covid test if they become symptomatic after arrival, while also stepping up awareness of free RATs available at airports, Covid-19 Response Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall says.

“This follows growing global concerns, including from the World Health Organisation (WHO) about lack of reliable data on case numbers in China and their work to address this,” Ayesha Verrall said.

“In response, officials have done a public health risk assessment including working through scenarios of potential case numbers among travellers from China. This confirmed these visitors won’t contribute significantly to our Covid case numbers meaning entry restrictions aren’t required or justified.

“There is minimal public health risk to New Zealand. We know that BF7 is the prevalent variant in China and that it hasn’t caused significant outbreaks in other countries that, like New Zealand, have already been exposed to the BA5 variant. So public health measures are not required to protect New Zealanders.

“However we do share the WHO’s concerns about lack of information sharing and this is why we will be asking travellers arriving from China to help us gather more information. In coming weeks we will temporarily be emailing a random sample of people recently arrived from China to ask them to undertake a RAT test and share that information with health authorities. It’s entirely voluntary and we have had high uptake from international visitors when we used this method before.

“It is important to note that new Covid variants can arise from across the world, not just China, which is why we’re reminding arrivals from all countries to take the free RATs at the airport and test if they develop symptoms once in New Zealand.

“In coming weeks, ESR scientists will also pilot testing of waste water from international flights and assess the feasibility of this method replacing the targeted and temporary voluntary testing that we’ve announced today for travellers from China.

“To conclude, being up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccination – including with your booster vaccination, continues to be your best protection against hospitalisation and severe disease. The current vaccines remain effective at reducing risk of severe disease if you are infected with any of the variants currently circulating.

“New Zealand continues to welcome visitors and tourists, and we ask that everyone follows the current public health measures which include staying home if you are unwell and isolating if you test positive for COVID-19,” Ayesha Verrall said.