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'Cannot afford to let our guard down': COVID-19 tests at border begin next week for all incoming travellers

Newshub logoNewshub 3/06/2020 Rachel Sadler
a man wearing a suit and tie: Watch: The Ministry of Health's Wednesday press conference. © Video - Newshub; Image - Getty Images Watch: The Ministry of Health's Wednesday press conference.

Every person arriving at New Zealand's border will be tested for COVID-19 beginning next week, the Ministry of Health has revealed.

It's part of its "targeted surveillance testing" to ensure the virus doesn't breach the border, meaning everyone will be tested - not just those going into quarantine.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said on Wednesday the potential move to alert level 1 - the date of which hasn't been confirmed yet - means there's a focus on how testing will work once New Zealand has further relaxed its alert level regulations.

There are two aspects to the border tests. The first is finalising advice about whether incoming travellers will be tested twice for the virus and on which days. The second is testing people who work at the border since they're at a "higher risk" of coming into contact with COVID-19. This will be a pattern of surveillance testing to make sure there isn't an undetected infection among border staff.

"We really want to make sure that our border is watertight," Dr Bloomfield said.

"This pandemic continues to pace outside of our borders and we cannot afford to let our guard down."

He also said the focus remains on testing people who have respiratory symptoms, and he encourages anyone who shows these signs of illness to contact Healthline or their GP to get tested.

New Zealand recorded its 12th consecutive day of no new cases, and there is still one active case.

This came just before Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed once New Zealand moves to level 1, all current restrictions on businesses will be "essentially lifted" and there'll be no more need for physical distancing in workplaces.

Cabinet will decide on June 8 if the time is right for the country to shift alert levels, and she said it will depend on the continued lack of new COVID-19 cases.

Ardern added it's currently too early to move to level 1 since gatherings were only increased to 100 people on Friday and there's still a risk of a breakout happening from these looser restrictions.

All the rules for hospitality such as single service, separated tables and people being separated will end at level 1. Churches can also return to full capacity, community sport can start without size and distancing restrictions, and all physical distancing on trains and public transport will no longer be in place.

She said while the current restrictions will end at level 1, New Zealanders "do need new behaviours to start", particularly with the risk of a future breakout.

"It does not mean our battle with the virus is over. COVID is still in the world with over 100,000 cases being reported daily, including in most of the countries we have close connections with," she said.

"So, at level 1 we all need to adopt new behaviours in order to keep any future cases of COVID under control, particularly public health measures like hand hygiene, to reduce the risk of transmission when new cases pop up, and enhance contact tracing.

"We also - and this is key - need to maintain strict border measures. Let me be clear: the only reason we are in the enviable position of even being able to consider a move to alert level 1 is because of our strict border controls."

In photos: NZ reopens as lockdown eases


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