NZ travel bubble reopens with mandatory $150 COVID test

Pre-departure COVID tests are now part of the Australia-NZ travel bubble.

By David Flynn, July 5 2021
NZ travel bubble reopens with mandatory $150 COVID test

New Zealand has cautiously reopened its travel bubble to a handful of Australian states, but with the new requirement of a pre-departure COVID-19 test which costs $150 per passenger – even for travellers who've already been fully vaccinated.

The Australia-New Zealand travel bubble opened on April 19 2021 without the need for quarantine or COVID testing, but was paused on June 26 in response to a growing number of cases being reported across Australia.

New Zealand has now lifted the travel ban for passengers from Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT, on the proviso that they have not visited a COVID-19 exposure site or 'hot spot' in the 14 days before their flight.

They must also have not been in NSW after 11.59pm (NZ time) on June 22; or Queensland, the Northern Territory or Western Australia since 10.30pm (NZ time) on June 26.

Travel from Western Australia and the NT will resume at 11:59pm (NZT) on July 9, although the 'travel pause' with New South Wales and Queensland remains in place as of July 6.

However, New Zealand's Ministry of Health now says that all travellers eligible to fly to New Zealand must take a pre-departure PCR or RT-PCR test within 72 hours of their departure and return a negative result before they'll be allowed to board their flight.

No exemption is made for people who have received their COVID-19 vaccination.

"The Government has been monitoring overseas developments and is concerned about high rates of infection and new variants of the virus and their potential to spread more rapidly," explains the NZ government's Unite Against COVID-19 website.

"Pre-departure tests reduce the risk of infected travellers on international flights infecting other travellers."

"You need to have both your COVID-19 sample taken and your result returned no more than 72 hours before the scheduled departure time of your first international departure."

Free community testing stations don't qualify for the necessary tests: "pre-departure testing and result certificates for travel clearance are provided by private pathology clinics."

These tests typically cost $150 per person – sometimes with same-day turnaround of the results carrying an additional surcharge (at least one pathology chain charges an extra $150 for this) – and do not qualify for a Medicare rebate.

For further information, including recognised test centres in Australia, travellers should consult the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 288

I would not be surprised if this becomes 'the new norm' even for this bubble, certainly as there appear to be instances of fully vaccinated people still testing positive for COVID's new Delta variant. Some form of testing is almost certainly going to be part of any Australia-Singapore 'bubble' too. I think COVID testing for travel is just going to be something we live with, like COVID itself, for at least the next few years.

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 597

Of course there would be incidences. Vaccination doesn’t stop you getting it nor does it stop you passing it on. Thought it does minimise you passing it on depending how well and fast you body responds to an infection. If it does it fast enough you won’t become infectious and if you did the viral load will be smaller  

There was an interesting graphic on the news this morning that demonstrates why we should get vaccinated. And that is in the UK infection rates in the past month have sky rocketed despite very high vaccination rates. But at the same time hospitalisations have fallen. And that’s the key vaccinated you can still get get it but great chance you won’t get sick and if you do less chance of needing to go to hospital and passing away from it. 

So for a place like NZ that is behind our woeful vaccination effort then testing makes perfect sense. Especially as our vaccination rates go up. 

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 377

While I hope testing isn't here to stay, I can certainly see it remaining as part of this bubble and being a part of any Singapore or other travel bubbles, at least as long as we're in this pandemic mode.

I can fully see it remaining in the case of travel to New Zealand even if there haven't been any cases in weeks or months. On the other hand it could be that after a few weeks of no cases, New Zealand might ease off on testing requirements, at least on a state by state basis.

Cool. Added hassle and costs.

What's wrong with the standard testing?

31 Oct 2018

Total posts 5

What’s the point of a travel bubble? Assuming Australia replicates this requirement, it will add $1200 to a family of four’s holiday!

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 288

I don't see why Australia would "replicate this requirement" because NZ is largely COVID free, it hasn't suffered the outbreaks we have and especially not with the Delta strain. Of course if things tuned around, Australia had a long spell of being COVID free and then NZ suddenly had a massive outbreak with lockdowns in its largest cities, I think Australia would first of all close the bubble, and then when it opened up again there might be similar testing form incoming NZ travellers, but this is all very hypthetical.

07 Jul 2021

Total posts 1

Of course Australia should replicate it, at any rate the NZ travellers travelling leaving Oz are hit with the cost as well.  If a travel bubble is formed then formalities likes this shouldn't be needed - it just sounds like they haven't got proper systems in place to manage such small outbreaks.  

Its any wonder why both government's vaccine rollout is where it is - there is no benefit to be vaccinated ....only the dangling carrot that IF we get to a % (which isn't defined) will things like this be waived for vaccinated travellers. 

I am living overseas so am used to getting a PCR test (we don't have to pay $150 dollars though) to travel.  I have been to 6 countries since the pandemic started, including USA, (New York which was considered an epicenter not long after I left).  I haven't caught covid, been ill, hospitalized, why because I took the necessary precautions.  I am now fully vaccinated and are free to go many countries without quarantine (except our home country due to the price to get there) 

Honestly Australians need to wake up and put up some fight, seems you all like being stuck in your homes.  Even when the PM and entourage returns without incident.....no one goes hang on a minute, why are they all ok after being outside of the island fortress.  The reality is, they don't want you to know what its really like outside.  Even the QLD premier is now going to jet off overseas after voting to reduce arrival caps.....

Come on guys 16 months on and they are still doing the same thing!   Have a look at what US, UK, EU, Canada and Singapore are doing...Australia is going to be 12 months behind the rest of the world and their plans are now to start building quarantine camps....that will open in 2022, ....lol 

Well just in time for the election !!!  See how quick things will change after the election. 

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 377

While I don't think it should be replicated by Australia - it most certainly could be and that could happen overnight without warning. If you don't think such knee jerk reactions are possible, look to South Australia, which mandated masks even without community cases as a "precaution" as capitals of surrounding states and territories went into lockdown.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2020

Total posts 7

Cheap flights / expensive Covid tests.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jan 2015

Total posts 69

Oh well guess i'll be cancelling my trip booked for end of July. I'm fully vaccinated but just don't have the time or desire to deal with testing. Hopefully this changes over the next couple of weeks  

Me (fully vaccinated) too.  Already enough price gouging on the flight costs; I think this tips it into the too difficult basket.  

24 Dec 2013

Total posts 95

I would also rather cancel my trip later this month than take a test. The worst part is not knowing if & when they will remove the testing requirement and if & when I should cancel my trip. 

05 Jul 2021

Total posts 2

I will happily pay the $150 if NZ reopen the bubble to QLD before our planned trip next week. It's a small price to pay for the luxury of still getting to travel in a pandemic when most of our country is still unvaccinated. I doubt Australia will introduce it in the reverse while NZ has no cases.

20 Jun 2020

Total posts 29

Beware - you can't take it too early because you must take the test less than 72 hours before your departure and you can't take it too late because not all clinics can return these results within 24/48 hours, many of them can't even return results on weekends.

I've had friends left high and dry on the day of departure because these private clinics can be unreliable and airlines provide no wiggle room which results in a wasted $150 on the test and no refund on the flight.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 628

Just getting crazier by the day, rules are being made up as we go along, no clear time frames no clear direction, who cares if your vaccinated or not you will be treated like a non vaccinated person.

I'm not sure if this is true but I was told Israel asked the companies supplying the covid vaccines how much do they want, the Israel Government gave them double the dollar amount on the condition they had the vaccine straight away. No use penny pinching.

17 Feb 2017

Total posts 15

"Free community testing stations don't apply" - why the hell not???  That's completely crazy!!!  Anyway I just cancelled my Business class return trip MEL-AKL on Qantas for this week.  I've had my first jab and now waiting on my second.  I won't be travelling again until this craziness is sorted out.  

05 Jul 2021

Total posts 2

I'd say it would be more difficult to verify the results are legitimate as they are provided by text message. Where as the one you have to pay for you get a proper report. 

25 Mar 2021

Total posts 3

Plus the free community is for people who are required to get tested because be at sites of interest or people showing symptoms. Travel doesn't meet those requirements, why should the public pay for people who want to travel? Isn't it better to save those resources for those who need testing?

07 May 2021

Total posts 4

Yeah but bar during an outbreak or lockdown (in which case NZ travel is suspended) the government testing sites are almost empty, so why not use them, especially as they already have the staff there and a lot of the time they are just sitting there doing nothing so I wouldn't imagine it would cost the govt. that much also it could be seen as an investment in tourism to more easily promote movement between NZ and Aus.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2017

Total posts 26

They staff are getting paid anyhow to staff the testing centres, so why not use them?

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 49

What a blatant scam from greedy Ardern ! Yeah nah, i will just wait it out until i can go to the US, Japan, EU, Thailand, Bali etc. (And don't call it a travel bubble when you have to pay $$$ for a Covid test. And what is the point of getting vaxxed ?!)

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 377

Phuket has just reopened but they're following the same scam - you're vaccinated but have to submit to up to 4 tests. Now keep in mind this is likely to be relaxed in due course and for now Aussies aren't allowed to leave Australia (except to go to New Zealand).

15 Mar 2018

Total posts 48

The group pushing the testing is a consortium out to make money, not the NZ govt.  That is why vaccines and government testing aren't recognized.  Nice sell by the consortium to the NZ govt.  And who owns this consortium, high end wealthy people who are once again pillaging the community.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Mar 2019

Total posts 19

Had to cancel QF flights in July today as NZ opened up to Perth flyers but my route takes me through Sydney and NZ is not open to NSW plus I'm required to quarantine 14 days on arriving back in Perth via Melbourne so 7 day trip becomes 21 days away from home.  Fares on direct flights via Auckland on AirNZ exhorbitant.  So much for the travel bubble back to meeting clients via zoom again!

17 Feb 2017

Total posts 15

Yes I agree, back to Zoom.  My company is about to ban travel for good; it's Zoom or nothing going forward.  Aus & NZ governments have destroyed any possibility of travel going forward so they will now suffer the consequences.  I am pro vaccination btw & have had my first jab & am awaiting my second jab.  Farewell Qantas Platinum, hello QF gold for life!!!!!

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 377

Craigh, what, really? Seems a bit of a pre-emptive move! None of us can predict the future of travel, and while some forms of business travel may never return, I personally believe many forms of business travel, including essential travel that requires face-to-face contact most certainly will. If I may ask, what industry are you in?

15 Mar 2018

Total posts 48

I doubt there are many activities that can't be done by Zoom.  It is just whether people want to accept it.  I was hard-core no, my work is too important to be done remotely, but I've learned, transitioned and now probably won't ever go back to extensive travel, time changes and meetings around the world.  However, I do miss the social aspect of it.  

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 377

OZJames, I agree that a lot of meetings can be done through Zoom, but that's easy to say if one is employed in a white collar role such as banking, finance, insurance or other jobs that are mostly performed in front of a computer screen.

If one is involved in manufacturing, food processing etc. then trying to use zoom or email to order or build a machine specific for one's operations is not as easy. Quite often meetings need to be held in person, or require factory inspections/visits in such industries for obvious reasons. The same can be said for agricultural operations and a lot of other industries that produce some sort of tangible product.

Then you have cultural aspects. In Asia, it is almost mandatory to meet your business partners in person and wine and dine together or it becomes difficult to close a deal. Speaking from experience, a mere email exchange with a company in many Asian countries leads almost nowhere. Most of the time your emails are ignored altogether. That changes once you've been physically introduced to the other side and emails are thus exchanged on a timely basis thereafter. While there will be necessary adjustments being made to this cultural aspect during the current times, it's difficult to change entire ways of doing business over the course of just a year or so. I think at some point, once normal international travel is allowed to resume, the old ways of doing business will resume, to a large extent.

Zoom will retain it's place, but I can't see business meetings with the Chinese ever being replaced by technology.

THR
THR

20 Sep 2012

Total posts 71

But transit is excluded?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Mar 2019

Total posts 19

My understanding is that transit is not excluded as there is no way to separate passengers coming from low or medium risk states (VIC, NSW) from transit passengers from NZ.  If you're coming to Perth via SYD or MEL you need to quarantine on arrival for 14 days.  Deal breaker for me I'm afraid.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 192

Mel will be allowed to WA from friday

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Mar 2019

Total posts 19

That's good news getting back from MEL is then sorted... but to get to Wellington from PER has become a real challenge at least on QF.  The only possible non-quarantine route in July now involves a forced overnight in MEL and 18hrs travel.  And now flight loads are being cut by 50% so presume more flights will be cancelled from NZ.  I can't see how any carriers can afford to be flying passengers into Australia.  But that's another post...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2013

Total posts 12

Wish Qantas would put on a direct flight between Perth and NZ, even one flight per week. Would love to go to NZ but not keen to transit Melbourne or Sydney.

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 148

Well I'm fully vaxxed and haven't been near a hotspot ever.

And I've been tossing up between Thredbo and Queenstown for a week's skiing.  All else being equal, NZ would probably be cheaper.  But I don't need a test for Thredbo and less chance of being and the mercy of snap border closures.

21 Dec 2016

Total posts 39

As an observer from the USA, the Covid testing requirement to return to the USA after international travels has been in place for 6 months or so (even if you're vaccinated); and the testing requirement for arrival in Europe was standard for the past year, until recently.

The reality is that only works if you have widely available testing at both your point of departure and arrival, and with results that are guaranteed within 24 hours.  Neither is a problem in the USA, Europe, or Latin America.  That infrastructure has been built around air travel since mid-2020.

The scientific validity of any of this can be questioned, especially among the vaccinated (yes, I know you can still get Covid, and possibly transmit it). 

But the larger issue is that Covid testing for international travel is a reality, vaccinated or not.  My advice is:  Build the infrastructure now, so you don't get caught out again (Australia's problem of 2021, it seems).  This was an inevitability, and it surprises me that it took so long for one of the two countries to enact it.  

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 377

The only way testing can work going forward, especially if we're ever to get back to mass travel, is with a non-invasive spit or swab test that delivers instantaneous results. The invasive nasal swab has it's risks and is most uncomfortable. Moreover, having to wait 24-72 hours for a result is forever going to kill all but essential travel moving forward, even if it were free.

Of course my hope is that one day all of this will be history. In Europe, depending on the country and where you're arriving from, you may or may not need to be tested. It's not standard, like it is in America for all arrivals by air. I understand land based arrivals across the Canadian or Mexican borders (which is only for essential travel as most ordinary travellers aren't allowed to enter by land) do not have to submit a test result.

QF

04 Apr 2014

Total posts 185

I have no problem with a requirement to get a test before international travel.   Just common sense.

17 Feb 2017

Total posts 15

I agree, I have no issue getting tested before travelling.  My issue is why can't we use the free government testing sites to do this.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 415

The government testing cost is covered by the government as part of public health measure. The purpose is to identify as many infectious people in the community as possible, not to serve as certification of being virus-free of individuals to travel overseas.

As part of the testing protocol you either must have symptoms or a possible contact in a hot spot. When you are tested, as part of the conditions you also agree to self isolate until the results come through, or (depending on the reason for testing, for example being in an exposure site) the entire 14 days even if the test result is negative. 

Of interest, during a surge for testing, some countries (China and Singapore for example) combine up to 10 people’s test sample into one test tube to increase capacity. It’s a bit like putting 4 women’s urine sample into the well of a home pregnancy test. If it is negative then none of the women are pregnant enough to be tested positive. If the test is positive at least one or more people is pregnant/has the infection. Then they either test the samples individually or if they don’t have the samples kept separate then they recall all the people who contributed to the sample mix. As only 1 in every 1000-4000 people are actually positive for COVID, if 100,000 people gave their sample, and 10 people to one test tube, then the number of test tube needed is initially 10,000 of which only maximum of 10 tubes will be positive, then they test 10 x10 samples, so total test tube needed is 10,100 for 100,000 people.

Most states does not provide certification for the tests; most get notified of the results by phone, often SMS.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 415

Well, I suppose that will self select “premium” travellers using the bubble, since $150 

Let’s see who needs the casual tourist more at this stage of the pandemic, NZ vs Oz?

I suspect it’s the former.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 415

I meant to say that the increase cost per pax of $150 per COVID test is in addition to the increased arrival levy of $59 (from $18) from Dec 2021

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 377

Yep, clearly. It will drive away most leisure travellers. Also, what is the minimum age of travellers for which testing is required? Do babies have to be tested, or is there a cut-off age?

I hope the testing requirement won't stay in force indefinitely, though I fear for the time being, it is likely to remain. That said, just like mask mandates in Australian states and territories generally come and go, being held in place for only a few weeks at a time (rather than an entire year as was the case in the USA and Europe, or since late March 2020 to the present in much of Asia) it is possible the New Zealand government might scrap the testing requirement once say 2 weeks of no new community cases have been recorded in a particular state.

That is, presuming Australia keeps up the same trend of a few weeks of community transmission, then basically nothing for several months, as has been the case since March 2020.

NZ

13 Aug 2016

Total posts 63

So apparently you can’t catch Covid within 72hrs of your flight? Seems pretty pointless to get an test 72hours out from departure.

If you were positive 72hours before hand, by the time of your flight most people would be on there way to recovered.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 415

They can ask for within 24 hours but that would incur a surcharge (which effectively doubles the cost of testing for some labs) in order for the results to be available.

Furthermore it is not practical or quite difficult to get testing during the weekend if your flight is on a Monday.

So I suspect 72hrs is a compromise out of being practical.

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 75

Not gonna argue the merits or drawbacks of this measure. But it seems to me that in purely $$$ terms, the NZ tourist economy could stand to lose a lot more by travellers put off by the added frustration of yet another bill to pay/yet another administrative hoop to jump thru before they even jump on the plane to NZ. I love NZ, but that $150 fee can buy me air tickets to a whole lot of rather nice local destinations right here on the Australian east coast.....

SMM
SMM

01 Feb 2013

Total posts 18

Monday morning Mel airport was a dogs breakfast with ppl having no idea the Covid test to fly was different. Lots of anger & tears. 

15 Aug 2018

Total posts 26

Testing for travel in HKG is A$40 at community test centres open 7 days results in 24h. 

Why is Australia so hopeless at everything?

Etihad - Etihad Guest

21 Jul 2019

Total posts 75

For a start: too many politicians at three different levels of gov't all running around with their own agendas and motives.

15 Mar 2018

Total posts 48

totally agree and all shoveling money to their mates.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Feb 2020

Total posts 27

Testing in Australia is free and clinics are open  early and close late. Had a test at at midday today. Had results by 6:00pm. Don’t understand your point sorry. 

15 Mar 2018

Total posts 48

The point is those tests are not accepted by airline or NZ

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 May 2018

Total posts 16

I would have thought being fully vaccinated should be the main requirement

I agree, we need people to see more reasons to get vaccinated and being able to travel to NZ without a $150 COVID test would be a good incentive. But maybe the AU and NZ governments haven't gotten around to recognising each other's vaccination status.

25 Mar 2021

Total posts 3

The tricky part is AZ is not approved for use in NZ currently.

Pzifer in NZ is approved when have 3 weeks between doses, 10ish weeks between doses isn't approved in NZ as the testing which NZ signed off on was 3 weeks.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 377

cqtiger, that's not the agenda. I don't see how vaccines that are only for emergency use can be mandated as a condition of travel. There has to be alternatives. Not everyone can, or wishes to be vaccinated. Vaccination does not even prevent you from contracting Covid.

I am against the idea of testing too, but like in most of the rest of the world, it's what governments use to allow entry into their jurisdictions and many airlines require it just to board a flight. These rules are constantly evolving. For instance, Turkey at one time seemed to require all arrivals, both Turkish nationals and foreigners to be tested, but now arrivals from a lot of countries don't have to show proof of testing. Mexico doesn't require anyone to be tested in order to enter the country.

What I can see happening is like is the case in a lot of countries and jurisdictions now, such as Hawaii and parts of Europe, they may allow vaccination OR testing going forward. This means the vaxxed can travel without testing, while the unvaccinated will need to return a negative test result.

08 Sep 2018

Total posts 7

If it is a "pandemic" as we are told, why are the bodies not piled in the street, mass graves and so on like previous pandemics? Nearly all the sensitive people have died already, so these miracle "treatments" are working. Sad for all the 1000's in the USA who have died within hours of the jab of this treatment. There are 9 new chemical company billionaires have been made from this game.

Read Article 6, Sections 1 and 3, of the Nuremberg Code for yourselves. Summary: Any medical procedure or therapy that you don’t want to participate in, you have the full, free, and unprejudiced right to refuse. Period.

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 377

Well said.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2017

Total posts 26

It would have to be New Zealand to bring in these rules, even for fully vaccinated people like myself.    I thought this was part of the reason why Allan Joyce and others are going out of their way to encourage people to get vaccinated...  so that we could travel again without all the added hassles of PCR covid tests at the last minute...   So, why  do the vaccinated  still have to go through the added hassle of getting a negative COVID test, not to mention the extra cost.     What's the point?    Vaccinated people are going to wonder why they even bothered in the first place.      I no longer am interested in going to New Zealand any longer....   They can forget it, as far as I am concerned.    All the while, good old Boris is going to open up the UK very soon, come rain, hail or shine. 

AJW
AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 597

The point of getting vaccinated in the context of travel is not for personal gain and benefit but for the benefit of the community as a whole.

Simple fact being vaccinated minimises substantially your risk of getting sick and carking it but you can still get it and pass it onto others. 

Hence why despite being vaccinated there is a substantial risk to countries like NZ and indeed Australia which have low vaccination rates of you bring the virus into the country. In actual fact in someways a vaccinate person is a greater risk as their is a far higher chance you will be asymptotic.

Now if Australia were like the UK where there is a significant portion of the population vaccinated then of course the risk of us colonials travelling would be substantially lower. But travel to countries with low vaccination rates being vaccinated yourself doesn’t help one little bit. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Feb 2020

Total posts 27

‘Free community testing stations don't qualify for the necessary tests: "pre-departure testing and result certificates for travel clearance are provided by private pathology clinics." I don’t understand what this means. What private pathology clinics? To my knowledge in Sydney all tests are provided by community testing clinics? If these clinics exist.. where are they?

15 Mar 2018

Total posts 48

In NSW they are:

4Cyte Pathology

Australian Clinical Labs

Capital Pathology

Douglas Hanly Moir Pathology

Healius Pathology

Medlab Pathology

Sullivan Nicolaides Pathology

Safework Laboratories

Many of these are the same companies doing the govt testing and making heaps.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 361

the not allowing hospitals that do the tests is a joke.I am in Adelaide and the closest hospital I have for them is Flinders.they could print off evidence of everything but according to both governments that is not good enough.


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