New Zealand is Easing Quarantine Restrictions

Eligible overseas arrivals can expect a shortened self-isolation period from the middle of next month.

Downtown Auckland, New Zealand at first light. (Photo: georgeclerk/iStock)

New Zealand’s Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins has just announced a significant change to entry requirements for returning citizens and residents. Starting from November 14, international arrivals will no longer have to spend two weeks in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) facilities; mandatory quarantine will be halved to seven days, with Covid-19 tests administered during the third and sixth days. After that, travelers can self-isolate at home for another three days and undergo a final round of testing on day nine.

“As vaccination rates have increased internationally, the number of Covid cases being picked up through our MIQ facilities has continued to decline. We now only get two to three cases per 1,000 arrivals and only around one in 2,000 is detected after seven days of isolation,” Hipkins said at a press briefing.

The minister added that New Zealand was relaxing quarantine requirements partially because of the presence of Covid-19 in the community, and the new arrangement would free up about 1,500 rooms in MIQ facilities each month, with some of those allotted to community cases. But demand coming from Kiwis stranded abroad far outstrips supply, with 30,000 people registering each time rooms are released. New Zealanders living overseas have been trying for months to secure an MIQ spot via the online lottery without any success.

From November 8, the country will also be dropping managed quarantine for citizens and fully vaccinated travelers coming in from low-risk countries, allowing them to self-isolate at home. This scheme will begin with selected Pacific islands before expanding to more countries in the first quarter of 2022, in line with the classifications of New Zealand’s new “traffic light” system. Hipkins also said the government’s list of high-risk countries would be reviewed in the near future.

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