New Zealand will not require travelers from China to undergo Covid-19 testing, according to the country's Covid-19 Response Minister, Ayesha Verrall.
Verrall stated that such measures are not "required or justified" due to the minimal public health risk to New Zealand and the fact that the Covid-19 variant prevalent in China has not caused significant outbreaks in other countries that have already been exposed to the BA5 variant.
Instead of mandatory testing, Verrall announced that scientists from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research will begin testing waste water from international flights to detect the virus in the coming weeks.
They will then assess whether this should replace the current voluntary testing of travelers from China, which involves emailing a random sample of people recently arrived from China and asking them to undertake a random saliva test (RAT) and share the results with health authorities. This method is entirely voluntary and has had high uptake from international visitors in the past.
A number of countries, including the US, UK, and Canada, have already introduced pre-departure testing for travelers from China, and starting on January 5, Australia will require travelers from China to have a negative pre-departure Covid-19 test.
Epidemiologist Michael Baker had previously urged the New Zealand government to follow Australia's lead and implement similar measures. The Chinese government has rejected claims that it has deliberately underreported the total number of fatalities from Covid-19 and stated that decisions by other countries to restrict travel from China are politically motivated.
The World Health Organization (WHO) had previously expressed concern about a lack of reliable data on case numbers in China and the Chinese officials' efforts to address the issue.