What happened to hard and early? Why has it taken so long to bring in pre-departure COVID-19 testing for travellers from countries with high rates of COVID-19 infection like the UK and the USA? Now there is the threat of a faster spreading strain of the virus facing us.

Right now there is an ever-higher number of people in New Zealand’s isolation facilities with these new faster-spreading COVID-19 strains that are in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.

The new testing before departure requirement is overdue. National has been calling for this since August 2020.

From Friday 15 January 2021 the Government is finally taking stronger action to protect New Zealand from COVID-19 and the new emerging variants that have been detected in the UK, South Africa and Brazil to date. But why is it now taking over a week to roll out?

The high rates of infection in many countries and the threat from the new more easily transmitted strains of the virus have been recognised by the Government, but only now is action being taken.

I have been saying since August last year that incoming travellers should have a negative test result before leaving from countries with high COVID-19 infection rates and they should be tested again on arrival and of course during the 14 day isolation period.

These steps are essential to keep New Zealand free of the virus. I know of many people who are genuinely concerned about the effect of another level 4 lockdown on their families, friends, education, businesses and jobs.

It has taken five months of pushing from the National Opposition but starting from 18 January, passengers from any destination excluding Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Island nations will be required to undergo Day 0/1 testing upon arrival in New Zealand.

It’s really important to remember that all travellers, including anyone exempted from the pre-departure testing requirement, will still be required to complete the 14 days mandatory isolation which applies to all new arrivals into New Zealand.

It is also important to note that the primary obligation is on passengers to comply, but airlines are also expected to play a key role in checking evidence of the negative COVID-19 test documentation where practicable. Is this good enough?

What is being done to protect our border security staff and our MIQ staff – are they going to get access to the vaccinations first and when?

Details around the new pre departure test requirements are online via covid19.govt.nz and Unite Against COVID-19 social media, website, the SafeTravel website, and directly to airlines.

My National Opposition colleagues and I will be continuing to monitor the situation as the procedures and protocols get more complicated.

New Zealanders deserve a proper plan from the Government not the ad hoc actions that we are getting at the moment, to provide protection from COVID-19 and some certainty about the future so everyone can plan for this.

I believe we must remain on guard against the COVID-19 virus and I support the continued use of the Covid App, mask wearing on all public transport, covering sneezes and coughs and frequent hand washing.

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