Health Alerts

Prepare Pacific Talanoa Health Alerts

January 14 2021 - Ministry of Health COVID-19 Update

All of New Zealand is at Alert Level 1.

At Alert Level 1, everyone must continue to do their bit to keep New Zealand COVID free.

  1. Stay home if you’re unwell and get tested
  2. Sign into places using the NZ COVID Tracer app and enable Bluetooth
  3. Practice good hygiene (includes washing your hands often and coughing into your elbow) 4. regularly clean high touch surfaces.

The following COVID-19 information below is accurate as at Thursday 14 January 2021. This has been provided by the Ministry of Health.

Border control; cases and new emerging variants

  • The recent increase in COVID-19 cases at New Zealand’s borders is expected, given case numbers continue to increase globally.
  • The Ministry of Health continues to monitor overseas developments very closely and is constantly reviewing and strengthening our response to COVID-19. This includes optimising our current stringent border processes including testing, regularly reviewing infection prevention procedures and undertaking whole genome sequencing of all cases to ensure New Zealand stays free of COVID-19.
  • All positive COVID-19 tests in New Zealand are sent to ESR for whole genome sequencing as part of ongoing surveillance and our overall elimination strategy.
  • As reported in the Ministry of Health’s press release on 11 January 2021, whole genome sequencing has identified a total of 19 cases of COVID-19 at the border with the variant known as B.1.1.7 (UK variant) and one case with the variant identified as B.1.351 (South Africa variant) in New Zealand since 13 December 2020.
  • Further work to identify and better understand these variants is ongoing in New Zealand and internationally.
  • Current research suggests the B.1.1.7 variant is around one and a half times more transmissible than previous variants but there is no evidence at this stage that the length of the infection period is any different to any other variant of COVID-19, nor is there evidence that it causes more severe illness.
  • The Ministry of Health are closely monitoring emerging research on the B.1.351 variant (South African variant).
  • We are also expecting to see more historical cases being detected in managed isolation due to an increasing number of people becoming infected and recovering before travelling to New Zealand. While these individuals may still have residual viral particles in their nasopharynx, which are picked up by our tests, they are no longer considered to be infectious.
  • Anyone who has tested positive must meet the recovered case definition before being allowed to leave the facility as assessed by the medical team. This includes a period of at least 72 hours without any symptoms and a minimum of 10 days since symptom onset or a positive test.

UK and US pre-departure testing requirements

Travellers entering New Zealand from the United Kingdom and the United States will be required to have a COVID-19 test (of a type approved by the Director-General of Health) no more than 72 hours before the scheduled departure time of their first flight (leg) of the journey to New Zealand. This means they will need to have had both the COVID-19 sample taken and the result returned within 72 hours of the scheduled first flight departure time.

  • The Government requires all passengers from the United Kingdom or the United States landing in New Zealand after 23.59pm (NZT) on 15 January 2021 to have a negative COVID-19 test before departure.
  • Passengers should remember to check the requirements of other countries they are going to be transiting through as they may have requirements that are different to what New Zealand requires.
  • The UK and US pre-departure testing requirements are an extra precautionary step to provide another layer of protection for New Zealand from COVID-19.
  • Infringement offences will apply to people arriving in New Zealand from the UK or US without the required evidence. In the first two weeks (until 29 January 2021), the focus of enforcement action will be on education and compliance.
  • Work is underway on similar measures for travellers using most other long-haul routes to New Zealand.
  • The Director-General of Health specifies the kind of pre-departure test that is required in order to safeguard travellers to New Zealand, flight crew, and New Zealand workers at our MIQ facilities. New Zealand currently accepts results from the following tests:
    • PCR and RT-PCR tests
    • LAMP tests
    • Antigen tests
  • Samples for testing can be obtained via nasopharyngeal, anterior nasal, oral, sputum, or saliva, which may be conducted in-home or by a trained sampler, but must be processed by a laboratory recognised in the country of origin as authorised or accredited to conduct tests.
  • Some testing laboratories allow samples to be taken at home – in these cases a sample can be taken at home, but the sample must be analysed by the laboratory. This means that the rapid (point-of-care) antigen tests conducted at home (akin to an ‘at home’ pregnancy test, with two blue lines displayed for a positive result), are not acceptable.
  • Testing laboratories must be able to issue a dated report for you to show at check-in. It should have:
    • Traveller’s name
    • Traveller’s date of birth
    • Date and time the COVID-19 test was conducted
    • Name of testing laboratory
    • Test type
    • Test result
  • For more information and frequently asked questions about the UK and US pre-departure testing requirements, visit the Unite against COVID-19 website.

Pre-departure testing will soon be required for passengers arriving from all countries or territories excluding Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Islands.

Day Zero tests

Starting from 18 January 2021, all travellers, excluding those coming from Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Islands, will undergo an additional day 0 test when they arrive into managed isolation. The day 0 test is the same PCR nasal swab that people currently receive and is in addition to the day 3 and day 12 tests.

  • Returnees will remain in their room until the result of that test is complete.
  • Travellers who are symptomatic on arrival will go straight to a quarantine facility
  • It usually takes 24-48 hours for test results to come back. People will be contacted directly if they have a positive test result and sent a text if they have a negative test result.
  • If the day 0 test is negative, people will complete the remainder of their 14 days managed isolation as normal and will have their further tests on day 3 and day 12 before they leave.
  • If the day 0 test is positive, the person will be transferred to a quarantine facility. This is several days earlier than previously would have been the case.

Advice for New Zealanders currently overseas

If you are returning to New Zealand, please consider the following in the 14 days before departure:

  • Avoid going to high risk events such as parties, physical gatherings or crowded places
  • Avoid contact with COVID-19 cases or contacts of cases
  • Stay home as much as possible to limit exposure to other people.

Doing these things will help reduce the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and bringing it home with you. Check the https://www.safetravel.govt.nz/ website for the latest advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ)

All those returning to New Zealand are required to remain in managed isolation for 14 days. This allows us to isolate these travellers from other New Zealanders while they may be incubating the disease.

Starting from 18 January 2021, all travellers, excluding those coming from Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Islands, will undergo an additional day 0 test when they arrive into managed isolation. Returnees must remain in their room until the result of that test is complete. The day 0 test is the same PCR nasal swab that people currently receive and is in addition to the day 3 and day 12 tests.

Anyone who returns to New Zealand with symptoms of COVID-19, develops symptoms while in managed isolation or when back in the community will be moved into a separate quarantine facility.

The third test (or second test for those from Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Islands) is part of how we decide it is safe for someone to leave managed isolation.

There’s more information about MIQ facilities here: https://www.miq.govt.nz/

COVID-19 vaccine progress

The Ministry of Health has published the latest vaccine information, including the details of the COVID-19 vaccine planning and delivery groups, on its website: https://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/diseasesand-conditions/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-response-planning/covid-19-vaccinestrategy/covid-19-vaccine-planning-and-delivery-groups  

Vaccines are expected to be delivered to the first group of people in the second quarter of 2021.