Business travel and holidays to New Zealand are set to become less of a hassle with the announcement passengers will no longer need a COVID-19 pre-departure test to enter the country as of Tuesday, 21 June.
In the hope of enticing more tourists into the nation as the ski season kicks off, unvaccinated travellers will also be allowed to enter without quarantining.
New Zealand COVID-19 Minister Ayesha Verrall confirmed the availability and cost of getting a test had increasingly become a barrier for people travelling to the nation.
"I'm advised the challenges pre-departure tests pose to visitors are now no longer outweighed by the public health benefits," she said.
"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. So we don't anticipate a significant increase in border cases once the requirement is lifted."
While more than 387,000 travellers arrived since the nation reopened its borders in February, the number of COVID-19 cases has slowly declined in New Zealand.
However, the government is keeping a set of surveillance measures in place to detect new variants of COVID-19.
Travellers will still be required to self-test using a rapid antigen test (RAT) within the first 24 hours of arrival and again on day five or six. If the result of either test is positive, the person must get a PCR test.
Additionally, any traveller with COVID-19-like symptoms (e.g. hayfever) could be asked to provide a negative COVID test or a certificate from a health professional before boarding a flight.
The maximum penalty for breaching the Air Border Order’s vaccination requirements will be reduced from $4,000 to $1,000.
Dr Verrall said New Zealand was ready to relax the pre-departure testing requirement ahead of the planned 31 July reopening to all visa categories.
"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," she said.
"Our strategy has worked, and as a result, it's safe to lift pre-departure test requirements much sooner than planned."
More than 95 per cent of eligible New Zealanders aged 12 or over are double-vaccinated. The nation's COVID-19 death toll currently stands at 1,359.
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