COVID-19: Resources for the border sector

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

Last updated: 12 July 2021

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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 has produced guidance for airports, airlines and workers at the air border to assist passengers, crew and workers reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19. 

This document has been formulated using existing international guidance with regard to Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) and will continue to be reviewed by the Ministry to ensure it reflects best practice in IPC for COVID-19.


Border Worker Vaccination

To prevent COVID-19 coming into our communities, we must continuously strengthen our border by protecting all people who work there. Alongside workers at Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) facilities, workers at the border are at the greatest risk of exposure to COVID -19.

Because COVID-19 is an ever-present risk at airports and ports, the mandatory vaccination requirement (which already applies to MIQ workers) has been expanded to include people who undertake work in these areas.


Border worker testing

Workers at the New Zealand 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.

Testing Requirements

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing) Order 2020 requires routine testing of border workers for COVID-19 at managed isolation and quarantine facilities, airports and seaports.

Specific groups of higher-risk border workers must be tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis. In most cases there will be a testing centre at or near your worksite. You can also be tested at a community testing centre or other healthcare facility such as your GP.

To help ensure that workers can meet the requirement to be tested regularly, your employer is required to keep a record about when you are due to have a test and when the test was completed.

To help your employer to keep this record, you must give your employer the following information:

  • Your full legal name and date of birth
  • Your contact telephone number
  • The date on which you are tested. (you need to do this every time you have a test.)

You will be advised (usually by text) of the results of your test. You do not have to tell your employer what your test results were. If your test result is positive a staff member from your local public health unit will call you.

There is no charge to either you or your employer for a COVID-19 test.

Saliva testing

As COVID-19 evolves and we learn more about the virus, scientific and public health evidence increasingly indicates saliva testing as part of a series is effective as a replacement for swab testing for surveillance purposes at the border. 

Saliva testing is a less invasive option for surveillance testing for COVID-19 and will be available for border workers as an option to replace their nasopharyngeal testing cycle.

A prototype is underway to fine tune the processes associated with the introduction of saliva testing, before it is rolled out to border workers nationwide. 

Border workers who wish to opt into saliva testing will have the opportunity to do so in the coming weeks. The Ministry will work with PCBUs to facilitate this. 

The Ministry will continue to monitor and regularly review our position with our public health, science and clinical advisors as we undertake a phased roll out of saliva testing to border workers.

Find out more about saliva testing: Saliva testing general FAQs (PDF, 182 KB).

Border workers testing requirements – on holiday in QFT destinations

Border workers subject to mandatory testing under the Required Testing Order are still required to meet those requirements while on holiday and must also declare at the point of departure whether they are awaiting the result for a COVID-19 test.

Staff intending to travel overseas should continue to factor in their testing obligations when planning their travel. New Zealand will accept test results from accredited laboratories outside New Zealand. To align with the surveillance testing in use for border workers within New Zealand, the result must be for a Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT), which includes RT-PCR, performed on a nasopharyngeal swab.


Border Workforce Testing Register

The Border Workforce Testing Register (the 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.

Use of the Register was mandatory from 27 April 2021. You can email [email protected] to find out more about the Register.

Read more about the Border Workforce Testing Register


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)

Read the last Border Advisory (docx, 459 KB) issued on 15 July 2020

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

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