COVID-19 Response Minister defends border system after passengers from Australia caught without pre-departure tests

In the last week more than 20 people have been caught at our border without a test.
In the last week more than 20 people have been caught at our border without a test. Photo credit: Getty Images

The COVID-19 Response Minister is defending the country's border systems after reports more than 20 people arrived in New Zealand from Australia without getting a pre-departure test.

All travellers coming into New Zealand need to have a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before their scheduled departure time.

But in the last week, more than 20 people have been caught at the border without having a test, including 11 people who flew into Auckland on Tuesday, reports Stuff.

Chris Hipkins says the fact those not obeying the rules are being caught "shows the system is working".

According to Stuff, only around one in 10 passengers departing Australia are being checked for the tests, and one person caught recently had been in New South Wales, meaning they shouldn't even have been allowed to enter the country.

All but two of the travellers without the tests were sent to managed isolation, Stuff reported. One of those exempted was a young boy whose parents were told they didn't need a test and the other was someone who had a test but their flight was delayed.

Hipkins said border officials here would be continuing to ask for proof of tests.

"Checking high numbers of passengers sends a strong signal that travellers are highly likely to be asked for proof, and by not having it they may have to spend the next 14 days in MIQ and be invoiced for their stay."

He said pre-departure testing is only one of various requirements travellers face.

"They must meet all the standard public health mitigations including making a health declaration that they have not been in a location of interest in the past 14 days, are not symptomatic, are not a close contact and are not awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test.

"Travellers must also have completed Nau Mai Rā travel declaration and answer questions at e -gates before they depart from Australia. Temperature checks are also made at New Zealand airports."

He said anyone found not complying with the requirements was breaking the law.

"Failure to meet QFT [quarantine-free travel] condition upon arrival in New Zealand is an offence under the COVID-19 Public Health (Isolation and Quarantine) Order 2020."

Quarantine-free travel with Northern Territory and Western Australia will resume at 11:59pm on Friday night. Kiwis stranded in New South Wales were set to be allowed to fly back home on "green flights" from Friday night too, but Hipkins announced on Friday afternoon those flights would now be postponed due to the COVID situation in the state.

He said the earliest the flights might be allowed to resume would be on Tuesday.