Kiwi travellers desperate to return home want 72-hour testing window widened

Next week, strict new rules around Covid-19 testing come into effect that’ll mean people travelling from Britain and America will need to show proof of a negative test before they can fly to New Zealand.

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In just under 10 days, new rules will kick in requiring those arriving from some Covid-19 hotspots to show proof of a negative test result. Source: 1 NEWS

While some people are trying to secure tests, there are concerns they won’t have their results within the tight 72-hour time frame.

Andrew Barnes, a New Zealand businessman, flew to England late last year for a family emergency.

Because voluntary testing operators aren’t open around the clock, he says the number of hours he’s able to get a test is cut down.

"I've got mine booked at 7.30am the following morning, so I’m down to 61 [hours],” he said.

“Then I have to check in. Now Emirates aren't going to let me on that plane unless I've got a certificate, so now I'm down to 58.”

Barnes is so concerned he won’t have a valid result that he’s booked in two separate tests.

“There are families out there that can't afford this.

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It comes as the mutant strain of Covid-19 has arrived in New Zealand. Source: 1 NEWS

“This is another pressure, another burden, and if it doesn't really add any value than why are we doing it?”

1 NEWS spoke to professor Kurt Krause, an infectious diseases expert from Otago University.

He says the testing window needs to be as narrow as possible, in order to spot positive cases.

“You have to have an interval to allow the test to be done, and it's a fairly complicated test so it takes time, but if you take too long a time period, someone can return a negative test and be re-exposed and end up passing it on.”

Krause says New Zealand’s at a critical point in the pandemic.

"We have Covid well under control, there are effective vaccines on the way, but they're not here yet, so it's really important we don't have a major outbreak now."

Government Duty Minister Willie Jackson also believes the 72-hour window is appropriate.

"We acknowledge the challenges faced by long-haul travellers as countries and airlines across the globe put in place added restrictions to protect their citizens, staff and passengers. Like all countries, we are trying to strike a difficult balance.

"Seventy-two hours is the recommended amount of time to carry out a test prior to departure due to the efficacy of the test and the practicalities around it.

"Whereas extending that window of time much longer than that — for example, weeks — may not show a valid result when the health status of the person may have changed," he told 1 NEWS.