It was reported in the NZ media last Wed (31 Mar) that the New Zealand government is presently considering if pre-departure COVID-19 testing results from India can be trusted.
It came after a spate of COVID-19 cases on a weekend flight arriving in NZ on 27 Mar from India via Dubai. Twelve cases were found in the flight. There were also additional eight cases recorded in the previous week after arriving at NZ via the same journey.
Christopher Hipkins, the NZ Minister assigned for COVID-19 Response, told the media, “We are seeing quite a few cases coming through that (India-Dubai route). It’s an Emirates flight that tends to bring a lot of people from India. We do see quite a high concentration of cases from that.”
“It’s obviously coming from a country where Covid-19 is rampant,” he said.
Hipkins added that he was getting advice with regard to the testing regime in India, but said the pre-departure testing rules which require people to get tested 72 hours before departing for NZ were not a “failsafe”.
“I am getting some advice on the pre-departure testing, whether or not we have full confidence in the test results or whether there is any evidence that system is being abused,” he said.
“It’s important to remember though that pre-departure testing is not a failsafe, 72 hours before departure is the timeframe we give somebody, it is still possible to contract Covid and get a positive test result by the time you arrive in New Zealand bearing in mind that if you’re travelling a long way there’s another 24 hours.”
“The fact that we’re seeing a reasonably significant proportion of cases coming through that particular travel path testing positive either in day 0 or day three, that doesn’t in itself tell us that pre-departure testing isn’t performing as it should.”
However, he said that the NZ government would not look at limiting or capping returnees from any region even if case numbers from that region were high.