COVID-19: Border, aviation and maritime sector

Information on COVID-19 for the border sector including specific guidance for the aviation and maritime sectors.

Last updated: 3 May 2022

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Border worker vaccination

The border, and those who work at it, are our front line of defence against COVID-19.

Vaccination is the best way to protect border workers, their whānau and the wider community. As such, the expanded Vaccinations Order requires people carrying out certain roles at the border to be vaccinated.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is highly effective if people have both doses. That means, if you are exposed to the COVID-19 virus, you are far less likely to fall seriously ill or transmit the virus to others.

There are very limited medical reasons for not having the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine or situations where vaccination should be done in a controlled environment. Read more on the Questions and answers for Primary health care workers page.

Vaccination exemptions 

We are aware of a small number of cases where medical practitioners have supported worker applications for exemptions, but may not have considered options such as vaccination in controlled environments. 

The COVID-19 Response Minister can grant time-limited exemptions to being vaccinated for border workers, following a process led by Ministry of Transport.

These exemptions are granted largely based on the potential for significant supply chain disruption.

An unintended consequence of the exemption process is that it may place the exempted worker’s employment at risk.

Air border worker testing

Workers at the New Zealand air border face higher risks of exposure to COVID-19 than most other workers. Regular testing is part of our rapid response to detect any cases so we can eliminate COVID-19. It protects the health of workers, their families and whānau and the wider community.

Note: As at 11:59pm on 2 May 2022, New Zealand-based workers at the Maritime Border are no longer subject to regular testing.  

Border Workforce Testing Register

The Border Workforce Testing Register is a secure online tool developed by the Ministry of Health to assist PCBUs (Person Conducting Business or Undertaking) with their record keeping in respect of a border worker’s COVID-19 swabbing dates and testing activity.

The Register also records the vaccination status of border workers. To ensure worker privacy, the Register does not record the results of a test, only the date a swab was taken.

COVID-19 becomes a quarantinable disease 

On 11 March 2020, ‘novel coronavirus capable of causing severe respiratory illness’ and ‘COVID-19’ was added to Part 3 of Schedule 1 of the Health Act 1956.

This means they are quarantinable diseases and the quarantinable disease provisions in the Health Act 1956 and the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006 can be used if necessary.

Protecting yourself at the border

Border staff who work in areas with a high passenger flow should always follow the basic infection prevention and control principles to reduce the exposure to passengers with an acute respiratory infection. This is especially important if you are interacting with passengers or crew who have travelled from or through any overseas ports in the last 14 days. 

This guidance provides information on personal protection for staff who work at the border.

Infection Prevention and Control guidance at the Air Border

The Ministry of Health has produced the Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) guidance for air border workers, to reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19. It provides air border workers with the IPC management of international passengers arriving, and passengers taking domestic flights under the No-Isolation, Self-Isolation and Managed- Isolation and Quarantine pathways.

The guidance incorporates the latest evidence, best practice, and possible new variants, and is reviewed on a regular basis. This document replaces the previous IPC guidance for Green and Red Zones and is effective from the 28th of February 2022.

Border advisories

The Ministry issues Border Advisories to update the border sector on any changes to policies and processes, and to support resources and guidance provided for the sector. The Border Advisories are independent of, and additional to, Immigration border advice.

For Immigration-related advice please visit Covid-19 (Immigration New Zealand)

For up-to-date information go to the Ministry's COVID-19 landing page.

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