New Zealand, like many countries, has minimal COVID-19 travel restrictions. As such, there’s no need to procure a COVID test or show proof of vaccination while entering the country. Even so, no travel is risk-free while COVID-19 exists.
Surprisingly, there’s a new spike in COVID-19, which is why airline and border authorities are always looking for people with COVID-19 symptoms. If you have been in contact with an infected person, symptoms could appear anytime, including at the entry point of New Zealand.
A quarantine officer may require you to undergo further testing or isolation if you display COVID-19 symptoms. Unfortunately, compelled testing or isolation will cause significant delays and disruption in your travel plans.
With that in mind, it is advisable to undertake a COVID test in advance to make an informed travel plan. More importantly, seek expert advice from a board-certified physician from a trusted urgent care center.
Do You Need a COVID Test to Fly to New Zealand?
New Zealand has no COVID-19 travel requirements to enter the country. In September 2022, the New Zealand Ministry of Health announced the removal of most COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The announcement lifted testing and vaccination requirements for incoming travelers and crew. As such, you do not need a COVID test to fly into New Zealand. Although it is not mandatory, some businesses, public venues, and events may continue to require proof of vaccination and mask use.
In addition, some airlines have mandatory pre-departure COVID-19 testing requirements. Therefore, check with your airline for more information.
Current Travel Restrictions for New Zealand
New Zealand has no travel restrictions, making it open to all travelers.
Requirements to Enter New Zealand from the U.S
Before traveling to New Zealand, ensure you’re eligible for travel, meet the visa requirements and take the necessary steps. Travelers arriving at New Zealand International Airport can complete a digital declaration instead of a physical one upon arrival.
New Zealand’s Vaccination Requirements
COVID-19 vaccination for travelers arriving in the country, including aircrew, is no longer required. However, all travelers are encouraged to remain updated with their vaccination because it significantly prevents infection and reduces symptoms and severe illness.
To enter New Zealand, travelers no longer need a pre-departure test.
Check Your Passport and Travel Documents
- Passport: If you’re visiting New Zealand, ensure your passport is valid for three months from the date you intend to depart.
- Visa: You do not need a visa if you’re visiting New Zealand for up to 6 months. Even so, you may need to get a New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority(NZeTA) before you travel.
Requirements for Returning to the U.S. from New Zealand
As of June 12, 2022, people entering the U.S. no longer need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. In addition, non-citizen non-immigrant visitors to the U.S. arriving by land, air, or sea no longer need proof of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
As a U.S. citizen, you’ll need a passport book if re-entering by air. If entering by land or sea, border authorities accept alternative documents such as a traveler’s trusted card or a U.S. passport card.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Covid-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2 virus. People with Covid-19 display various symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. The time after exposure and development of the virus is called the incubation period.
During the incubation period, an infected person can transmit the virus, a medical condition referred to as pre-symptomatic infection.
The common symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Fever or chills
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Nausea or Vomiting
- Runny nose or Congestion
- A new loss of taste or smell
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Pink Eye
Some people develop just a few symptoms; others display no symptoms but spread it to others(asymptomatic transmission). Other people experience worsened symptoms a week after infection.
Some people experience COVID-19 symptoms four weeks after infection, a health condition sometimes called post-Covid.
When to Visit an Urgent Care Center
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in contact with an infected person, contact a medical provider for advice. Your physician will mostly recommend a COVID-19 test.
If you develop emergency COVID-19 symptoms, seek immediate care:
Emergency symptoms include:
- Trouble breathing
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- A new confusion
- Constant pressure or chest pain
- Blue, pale, or gray-colored lips, skin, or nail bed, which depends on your skin tone
How COVID-19 Spreads
COVID-19 spreads in tiny droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes near you. A person becomes infected after inhaling these droplets.
You can also get COVID-19 from close contact— touching or shaking— an infected person’s hands.
In the week ending September 11, 2023, the Government of New Zealand detected 3,458 new cases. In addition, there were 221 new cases in the hospital as of midnight Sunday.
More importantly, at least 73.1% of eligible adults have already taken the first booster shot.
What Will Happen If I Test Positive for Covid-19?
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may be required to stay where you are until you test negative.
Therefore, consider testing for COVID-19 as part of your travel plans.
Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 testing:
Types of COVID-19 Tests
Different types of COVID-19 tests can detect COVID-19. A molecular and antigen test detects a current Covid-19 infection. On the other hand, an antibody test detects whether you had a previous infection.
Molecular Test for COVID-19
The molecular test for COVID-19 is also called nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) or reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test. The molecular test uses a specific probe to detect the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The testing equipment heats and cools the sample 30 to 40 times, doubling the DNA until there are a billion pieces of the original. The amplified material contains a fluorescent dye detectable by the machine.
The amplifying property of the molecular test allows the machine to detect an infection in the smallest amount of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The amplification process makes the PCR test a highly sensitive and accurate method.
Multiple studies suggest 96% and above accuracy levels, making it the ‘gold standard’ for diagnosing a COVID-19 infection.
Here’s when you can expect test results:
In some point-of-care test centers, you can get the molecular test results in under 1 hour. However, the results can take 1-3 days if the healthcare provider sends the sample to an external facility.
Although a positive outcome of a PCR test is highly accurate and reliable, it is possible to get a false negative result.
Here are a few reasons behind a false negative:
- Testing Too Early: It takes up to five days before the genetic material of a virus builds up to detectable levels. You may, therefore, get a false negative if you perform a COVID-19 test within the window.
- Testing Too Late: The viral genetic material in the upper respiratory tract begins to decline after the first week of infection. It is, therefore, possible to get a false negative if you test too late after the infection.
Antigen Test for COVID-19
An antigen or rapid test is another test used to check a current COVID-19 infection. An antigen is a substance that causes an immune response and antibody production. An antigen test uses a lab-made antibody to detect antigens found in the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Similar to antibodies in your body, the ones on the test strips bind to any antigen in the sample, leading to a positive result. An antigen test produces results within 15-30 minutes.
An antigen test tends to be more accurate and reliable when a person is symptomatic and has a high virus load. Unlike PCR, which amplifies the genetic material, the sample requires enough genetic material to generate a positive outcome.
It is, therefore, possible for antigen tests to miss a case of COVID-19 in the early stages of infection. A positive result is highly accurate and reliable; however, a single negative result cannot rule out an infection.
FDA recommends the following steps to improve accuracy levels:
- 2 negative tests for individuals with symptoms done 48 hours apart
- 3 antigen tests for persons without symptoms done 48 hours apart
- A single PCR test to confirm an antigen test result
Antibody Test for Covid-19
An antibody test or serology test is a blood test that is used to detect a previous COVID-19 infection. The test can provide information on how your body reacted to the SARS-CoV-2 virus or the COVID-19 vaccine.
Here’s why you may need an antibody test:
- If you had symptoms in the past but didn’t take a test
- If you had a severe reaction to the first shot of COVID-19 vaccine
- If you had a past COVID-19 infection but would like to donate plasma
An antibody test is not used to check a current infection because the body takes 1-3 weeks after an infection to start generating antibodies.
You can get the results of an antibody test within the same day in some point-of-care test centers. However, it may take up to three days if the healthcare provider takes the sample to an external lab.
Interpreting a Positive Result
If the test result turns positive, it means the test detected the virus, and you have a recent infection,
Take the following actions after a positive result:
- Isolate and take precautions such as wearing a mask to protect others from getting infected
- Tell those you recently had contact with that they may be exposed
- Monitor your symptoms; if you notice any emergency symptoms— seek immediate care
- Contact a physician from an urgent care center to learn about your treatment options. Treatment is highly effective if you commence it the first few days after an infection.
Interpreting a Negative Result
A negative result means the test did not find the virus; however, it doesn’t rule out an infection.
- If you have symptoms, consider repeating testing to rule out an infection or confirming the result.
- If you don’t have symptoms and haven’t been exposed to the virus, consider returning to normal activities, including travel.
Checklist and Resources for International Travelers
Remember to carry identification documents, including a passport, traveler’s Visa, and driver’s license. In addition, keep copies separately from the originals as a source of identification in case of an emergency.
Helpful Links for Travelers
Anyone can get infected with COVID-19, with the illness resulting in mild to severe symptoms. However, a particular group of people is at risk of getting a severe form of COVID-19.
People at a greater risk of developing a severe form of COVID-19 include:
- Older adults
- People with asthma
- Pregnant and recently pregnant persons
- People with pre-existing medical conditions such as lung diseases, heart failure, chronic kidney disease, and coronary artery disease.
Many people who get infected with COVID-19 develop mild to moderate symptoms. However, an infection can trigger a medical complication and lead to death in some people.
Older adults and people with a compromised immune system are at a greater risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19.
Examples of COVID-19 complications include:
- Heart illnesses
- Trouble breathing and pneumonia
- Organ failure
- Blood clots
- Acute kidney injury
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome— a severe lung condition that causes a low amount of blood to flow through your bloodstream to your organs
- Additional viral and bacterial infections
Make an Informed Plan With COVID Test for International Travel
If you intend to travel to New Zealand to meet a business associate, time and proper planning are essential. Unfortunately, a positive for COVID-19 while entering New Zealand could disrupt your plans, including the cancellation of a ‘fortune-changing’ meeting.
Fortunately, you can avoid the surprises by undertaking a COVID-19 test in advance to make informed choices about your health and travel.
Newport Urgent Care & Occupational Medicine has a well-equipped lab and trained physicians ready to assist you.