New Zealand to axe pre-departure testing

New Zealand is set to drop its mandatory pre-departure test requirements for travellers next week, just in time for ski season.

From Tuesday 21 June overseas travellers will no longer need to present a negative COVID-19 test result before entering New Zealand, according to the country’s COVID-19 Response Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall.

The requirement was set to be removed by 31 July, but Verrall said the continued decline in cases despite almost 400,000 arrivals since borders reopened indicated the measure could be lifted early.

“Around 90 per cent of international arrivals undertake their required testing once they are in the country, with only a 2-3 per cent positivity rate,” she said.

“So we don’t anticipate a significant increase in border cases once the requirement is lifted.

“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.

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

Verrall said the challenges pre-departure tests pose to visitors are 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,” Verrall said.

In a recent interview with Travel Weekly New Zealand’s Tourism Minister, Stuart Nash, said it has been fantastic to see Aussie travellers return to holiday in the country.

“In certain areas of our country, it’s been really tough. Places like Queenstown, for example, and Milford Sound – are some of the iconic Kiwi places down on the South Island that had a real reliance on international tourism,” Nash said.

“Overall we’ve really missed international tourists.

“There’s so much to see and do in New Zealand and there’s something for everyone, whether you’re into adventure, tourism, skiing, fine wine and food, and friends and family.”

Most travellers will still need to be vaccinated, complete a New Zealand Traveller Declaration and self-test on day one and again on day five.

From Monday evening, passengers transitting through New Zealand will no longer need to be vaccinated or complete a Traveller Declaration.

The maximum penalty for breaching the Air Border Order’s vaccination requirement will also be reduced from $4,000 to $1,000.

New Zealand’s international border reopened for fully vaccinated Aussies in April and is scheduled to fully reopen to overseas visitors from 31 July.

The country will lift its cruise ship ban on the same date.

Featured image: Roy’s Peak, Lake Wanaka, New Zealand (iStock/Worawat Dechatiwong)