Questions expose holes in checks on travellers
Staff availability, passenger numbers and airport scheduling are why border staff can’t check if all Australian travellers have tested negative for Covid-19 before entering the country.
And previous Government estimates that 50 per cent of all incoming passengers are being checked seems to be the maximum, while accounts from people who have crossed the ditch suggest it is much lower.
This week, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said about half of incomers were being checked at the border if they had evidence of their mandatory negative Covid test.
But after inquiries from the Herald, a spokesperson for Hipkins’ office confirmed test checks varied across airports, were dependant on a range of factors and could be lower than 50 per cent.
“Customs has advised that it has been able to conduct short-term ‘surges’ of up to 50 per cent of arriving passengers depending on staff availability, and flight loadings and scheduling at each airport.”
People travelling from Australia must test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their flight to New Zealand, as per travel restrictions.
This did not apply to New South Wales or Victoria where quarantine free travel is paused with those states due to rising case numbers.
More than 50 people had been caught without proof of a negative test and had been sent to a managed isolation/quarantine facility.
On Wednesday, the Herald reported how NZ Customs checked predeparture Covid tests through “random validation” — meaning not everyone was checked when the landed.
Act leader David Seymour said that presented a substantial risk of importing the virus, saying it left NZ a “sitting duck praying for luck“.
Several recent transtasman travellers have since contacted the Herald to share their disbelief at how proof of their expensive Covid tests had not been asked for and, in some cases, had been dismissed.
Whangãrei mum Ashley Rochelle returned on July 11 with her four kids, her partner and her mother-in-law.
After paying more than $900 for tests, they were not asked at any stage to provide evidence of them.
Upon arrival, Rochelle asked a Customs official whether he wanted to see proof of her family’s tests and he said no, allegedly saying only 7 per cent of people were being checked.
A Customs spokeswoman didn’t respond to Rochelle’s claim only 7 per cent of people were being checked.
Auckland resident Nicola, who asked to keep her last name private, travelled to Melbourne with her husband and two children last week.
There they faced rigorous checking from officials if they had symptoms or had visited places of interest.
But on their return through Auckland Airport, Nicola said the Customs officer didn’t request to see proof of their tests. When asked why not, the officer allegedly said only a third of people were being checked. “I’m not confident enough that there aren’t holes in the system,” Nicola said.