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Review of COVID-19 Border Measures (Aviation)

Provide assurance that the air border measures were appropriately managed, minimising the opportunities for the spread of COVID-19.

  • The Border Executive Board’s predecessor, the Border Sector Governance Group (BSGG), pro-actively commissioned an independent review of COVID-19 aviation border measures in July 2020. The BSGG wanted to ensure the border measures in relation to COVID-19 were being applied effectively and to check what improvements could be made.
  • The border was a key part of the Government’s elimination strategy to protect New Zealander’s from COVID-19.
  • At the time of the report, the measures included restrictions on people who can travel to New Zealand and various public health measures (hygiene, physical distancing, use of PPE, and managed isolation and quarantine for many travellers).   
  • Multiple border agencies had to make changes and create processes at speed to ensure the risk of COVID-19 entering through the aviation border was efficient and effective.
  • Border agencies took steps to implement the recommendations of the review and tighten processes, procedures and information sharing around COVID-19 and border security.

Changes included

  • Establishing the Chief Executive level Border Executive Board to provide governance and oversight across New Zealand’s border system. 
  • Publication of formal direction and guidance including the Air Border Order, the Maritime Border Order, the Ministry of Health's Infection Prevention and Control guidance and guidance from the Privacy Commissioner on the sharing of personal information. 
  • Secondment of staff from key agencies into the Ministry of Health's Border Operations team. 
  • Regular meetings at strategic and operational levels to drive transparency and consistency across the sector. 
  • The introduction of pre-departure testing since the report was drafted provides additional assurance at reducing the risk to New Zealand from COVID-19. This also represents an exemplar of how border agencies including Health, Customs, Immigration and Transport can innovate and work effectively together.


  • The Ministry of Health advised border stakeholders on 6 January 2020 of cases of novel coronavirus in China.  On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. COVID-19 was made a notifiable disease under the Health Act 1956. 
  • The first set of border measures for travellers were implemented from 2 February 2020. 
  • On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic. COVID-19 was made a quarantinable disease under the Health Act 1956. 
  • The dynamic and fast-moving context in which border sector agencies implemented the border measures was unprecedented. Governments around the world were taking extraordinary action to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. New Zealand was no different. Border restrictions, of the like the country has not seen, were implemented shutting New Zealand’s border to most travellers. 
  • The border fully reopened, with some restrictions, for air travellers from 31 July 2022.  Mandated COVID-19 vaccination requirements were removed from 12 September 2022. The Air Border Order 2021 was revoked on 20 October 2022. Refer to the website of ManatÅ« Hauora Ministry of Health for a list of COVID-19 related legislation and orders.

Review of COVID-19 Border Measures – Tranche One (Aviation) Final Report 2 October 2020