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Cost of pre-departure testing for UK returnees to 'largely fall on the passengers'

The Minister responsible for the Covid-19 response says introducing pre-departure testing for people from the UK will come at an additional cost and covering it would “largely fall on the passengers”.

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The Minister for the Covid-19 response says support systems could be introduced for people while they recover from the virus. Source: 1 NEWS

It comes as the Government today announced it looked to introduce pre-departure testing for people coming from the UK from about mid-January.

Chris Hipkins said details of the initiative were still being worked through. But, it would likely require passengers to produce a certified Covid-19 test result.

The Government still had to determine who exactly would be looking at that documentation to allow someone to fly.

He said those who tested positive for Covid-19 could legally be stopped from boarding a plane.

“But we’re not blind to the fact it could leave some people in quite a lot of difficulty,” Hipkins added, noting it would only affect a “very small number of people”.

“There are some issues that we need to work through.

“For example, if someone’s coming home because they are in difficulty, they may have run out of money … we would need to make sure we can support them in that period while they are recovering from Covid-19 so they can make their safe passage back to New Zealand.

He said logistics also needed to be organised with various airlines before the pre-departure tests were implemented. This was because there were currently no direct flights from the UK to New Zealand, and several countries had closed their borders to the UK after it identified a new, more contagious variant of Covid-19.

Hipkins acknowledged the pre-departure tests would mean those wanting to return to New Zealand would have to go through additional steps.

“We haven't implemented pre-departure testing yet because we do want to give people plenty of lead-time before we did anything like that.”

Regardless of the results of the pre-departure test, returnees would still stay in a managed isolation facility for 14 days, Hipkins said.

He announced earlier this morning additional testing at day zero or one for people coming to New Zealand from the UK or the US would be implemented from midnight on December 31.

“The new testing will be in addition to the current day three and day 12 tests. The returnees will also be required to be in isolation or quarantine in their allocated room at a facility until their initial test has returned a result.”

The early testing would allow people to be transferred to quarantine facilities earlier, if required, Hipkins said.

“New Zealand has heightened concerns about the new variants of the virus and their potential to spread more rapidly, and the ongoing high rates of infection in some countries.”