New Zealand Announces New Reopening Timeline

Entry restrictions will be scrapped for foreign travelers with visa-free access no later than July.

Overlooking Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. (Photo: Vichie81/

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just unveiled details of a five-phase plan for the country’s border reopening in a speech to the business community in Auckland. The announcement is a relief for the thousands of New Zealanders who have been stranded abroad and locked out by the limited capacity of managed quarantine (MIQ) facilities. In the initial stage, fully vaccinated citizens living in Australia will be able to return home from 11:59 p.m. on February 27. Two weeks later, from 11:59 p.m. on March 13, Kiwis from the rest of the world and other eligible visa holders will be let in.

Incoming travelers who have been fully inoculated can bypass MIQ and self-isolate at home for 10 days. However, Ardern said it was likely that period would be shortened to seven days by the time the first stage kicks in. Arrivals will be given three rapid antigen tests at the airport to administer at home on the first day and then the fifth or sixth day, with an extra kit in case it’s needed. Unvaccinated New Zealanders will be accepted for travel but must go through the MIQ system as they will be deemed “high risk” travelers.

The third phase will allow up to 5,000 international students, along with temporary visa holders, to enter from 11:59 p.m. on April 12. After that, unrestricted entry for Australians and all other visitors with visa-free access to New Zealand before the pandemic (including citizens of Brunei, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore) is set to begin “no later than July.” Ardern added that it was highly likely the date would be brought forward based on the evolution of New Zealand’s Omicron outbreak. The final stage is slated for October, when borders will be reopened to all other international visitors and students who would normally need a visa to enter New Zealand.

As the approach shifts toward home isolation, some quarantine hotels will return to their previous role as lodgings for domestic and overseas tourists. More than 200,000 New Zealanders and critical workers have passed through the MIQ system since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the sheer popularity of the MIQ lottery has meant that many Kiwis living abroad have been unable to return home. No timeline has been set for when self-isolation will be scrapped entirely for international arrivals.

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