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COVID-19: Border testing and exemptions

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Photo: RNZ / Patrice Allen

As New Zealanders continue to enjoy the freedoms of Level 1 and there's good news that the numbers remain unchanged so far.

Addressing the move to Level 1, the Director-General of Health has spoken to topics of importance.

"Foremost of these is for me to stress the ongoing importance of the border at Level 1 and how it must function as our “safety net” in protecting New Zealand in the global environment," says Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

"With this priority, tighter controls are being placed on those coming into New Zealand at the border – controls we are making to keep New Zealanders safe from COVID-19 entering the country.

"People entering New Zealand are already required to stay in managed isolation or quarantine for at least 14 days.

"Firstly, everyone in managed isolation will be tested twice for COVID-19 and will require a negative result before they leave. Those in quarantine were already being tested, as they had shown prior symptoms.

"Secondly, under Alert Level 2, 142 exemptions from managed isolation were approved on compassionate grounds for people to attend funerals, tangihanga or visit a dying loved one (181 such applications were declined – usually where applicants were not able to provide a workable plan for allowing the exemption to go ahead safely).

"(This week) people in managed isolation will no longer be able to apply for exemptions to attend funerals and tangihanga.

"They will still be able to apply for compassionate leave to be with a small group of loved ones before or after a funeral or tangihanga, but not to attend the actual event. People in quarantine have never been able to attend such events.

"We're making this change because someone who has potentially been exposed overseas now poses a greater risk wider spread of COVID-19 at large gatherings.

"It's an unfortunate but on balance necessary trade-off as we relax the domestic restrictions on gathering numbers moving to Level 1. We need to balance the increase in risk by taking a more restrictive approach at the border, so we can continue to keep COVID-19 out, and keep our domestic economy operating as freely as possible.

"Without the security offered by size restrictions on gatherings and physical distancing we need correspondingly tighter protections at the border.

"New Zealanders have worked very hard and sacrificed a great deal to get to where we are, and we don’t want to go backwards now," says Ashley.

Changes to the criteria for exemptions from managed isolation will apply to all applications received from 1pm today.

The information for people travelling back to New Zealand to attend funeral or tangihanga has been updated on the Ministry's website so they are aware of the change.

Our numbers

It is now 20 days since the last new case was reported in New Zealand, and there are again no active cases.

Our total number of confirmed cases remains at 1154, which is the number we report to the World Health Organization.

Our combined total of confirmed and probable cases remains at 1504.

The number of recovered cases is 1482.

There are no additional deaths to report.

There is no one in New Zealand receiving hospital-level care for COVID-19.

On Monday, laboratories completed 1053 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 295,901.

Eight significant clusters have closed, unchanged from yesterday.

'We do need to continue to be prepared for additional cases in the future. It's almost certain new cases will pop up, this has been the evidence from overseas," says Ashley.

"This is why we will be continuing a comprehensive testing regime so we can pick up cases if they appear and why we encourage anyone exhibiting symptoms to get advice about being tested."

 

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