New Zealand steps up border controls to fight virus

New Zealand reported 60 cases among new arrivals in the first 10 days of January, following 106 cases in December.
New Zealand reported 60 cases among new arrivals in the first 10 days of January, following 106 cases in December.PHOTO: AFP

WELLINGTON/MELBOURNE • New Zealand will further tighten border measures to combat the global spread of more transmissible variants of the coronavirus.

From next Monday, almost all people entering the country will need to be tested for the virus within the first 24 hours of arrival, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.

Health officials are also putting in place requirements for almost all travellers to New Zealand to have a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of their departure.

The nation reported 60 cases among new arrivals in the first 10 days of this month, following 106 cases last month.

All were caught during a mandatory 14-day stay at isolation hotels. Infected people must be quarantined until tests return negative and they no longer have symptoms.

Mr Hipkins said travellers from Australia and some Pacific Island nations will be exempt from pre-departure and day one tests.

There will also be exemptions for young children and past recovered cases.

The broader rules build on existing conditions for arrivals from Britain and the United States.

They have faced day one testing since the start of the year and have to stay in their isolation hotel room until a negative result.

Travellers from Britain and the US arriving after Friday must also provide evidence of a negative test. The exact date when the pre-departure test requirement for other nations will be imposed is still being finalised.

But those arriving in New Zealand from Jan 29 without evidence of a negative test will incur a fine, Mr Hipkins said.

Meanwhile, Australia recorded a handful of new local virus cases yesterday, with friction increasing between state leaders over how to manage the outbreaks.

The northern state of Queensland recorded one new case, while the most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) logged five new local infections.

Premier Mark McGowan of Western Australia said yesterday that the country "could rest a lot easier" if Covid-19 was eliminated in NSW. Western Australia has not seen any local infections in nine months.

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro told media yesterday: "We've had Covid-19 deaths in this nation but we are going to have more deaths from mental health, from people being locked away in isolation. Stop lecturing us, look after your own backyard."

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 13, 2021, with the headline 'NZ steps up border controls to fight virus'. Print Edition | Subscribe