By - Manika
- New Zealand is not imposing any mandatory COVID testing on travelers from China
- Says there is no public health risk to Kiwis
- Plans to test wastewater of incoming flights in the coming days
The New Zealand government announced on Wednesday (4 January 2023) that it won’t impose mandatory COVID-19 tests on travelers from China despite widespread cases of the virus there.
COVID-19 response minister Ayesha Verrall in a statement said that there was a minimal public health risk to Kiwis.
The minister, however, said there would be a random testing plan coming up in the next few weeks and would also consider testing wastewater on incoming flights.
However, Verrall pointed out that all international tourists must undergo a COVID-19 test if they become symptomatic after arriving in New Zealand.
She also added that the government would raise awareness of free RATs available at airports in NZ.
New Zealand’s response follows growing global concern, including from the World Health Organisation (WHO), about the lack of reliable data on case numbers in China and their work to address it.
A growing list of countries imposing restrictions
On 1 January, Australia announced that travelers from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau would need to take a COVID-19 test and travel to Australia only if the test was negative. Mark Butler, Australia’s minister for health, had specified that the new requirement was in response to a strong wave of the COVID-19 disease in China. Similarly, Canada also joined the growing list of countries requiring travelers from China to take a COVID-19 test before boarding their flight.
Many other countries, including the US, Britain, India, and Japan, had earlier announced restrictions on travelers from China.
NZ takes a different stance
However, in New Zealand, the government has done a public health risk assessment, including scenarios of potential cases among travelers from China. The study has confirmed that these visitors won’t contribute significantly to the country’s COVID-19 case numbers.
She added that this meant that entry restrictions weren’t required or justified.
While elaborating that there was a minimal health risk to New Zealand, she said that the prevalent variant in China is BF7, and it hadn’t caused significant outbreaks in other countries that, like New Zealand, had already been exposed to the virus. Further, she said, BF7 variant is prevalent in China and it is known that it hasn’t caused widespread outbreaks in other countries. New Zealand has been exposed to BA5 variant so public health measures were not needed to protect NZ.
However, she said that New Zealand does share WHO’s concern about the lack of information sharing and this is why NZ would be asking travelers arriving from China to share information through email. She said in the coming weeks, the government would send emails to a random sample of people who had recently arrived from China to ask them to undertake a RAT test and share that information with health authorities.
Verrall also said that being up to date with your vaccinations and booster shots was the best protection against hospitalisation and the severity of the disease.
She said New Zealand continued to welcome visitors and tourists and asked everyone to follow the current health measures, including staying at home if unwell and isolating if tested COVID-19 positive.
The government’s current decision will be reviewed in a month, pending further information.