New Zealand to Begin Reopening Borders in Early 2022

Quarantine-free entry for some fully vaccinated visitors could happen from the first quarter of next year.

Atop the summit of Roys Peak on New Zealand’s South Island. (Photo: Sander Lenaerts/Unsplash)

Aching to visit New Zealand in the near future? You might have to wait another six months before booking any flights or hotels. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just outlined plans for a phased reopening to international travelers, with countries grouped into low-, medium-, and high-risk categories depending on factors such as infection rates and overall vaccination coverage.

Fully inoculated arrivals from low-risk places will be able to skip mandatory quarantine, while a reduced period of self-isolation will apply to those coming in from medium-risk areas. Visitors from high-risk countries and unvaccinated travelers must spend 14 days in government-managed quarantine (MIQ) facilities. All groups will also be required to undergo coronavirus testing both before departure and on arrival. “Our ultimate goal is to get to quarantine-free travel for all vaccinated travelers … But we’re simply not in a position to fully reopen just yet,” Ardern said in a speech earlier today.

The government also plans to launch a trial in October that would permit home quarantine for citizens returning from abroad, so long as they had previously been vaccinated in New Zealand. But that pilot scheme and the subsequent reopening could change in response to developments in the global situation, and as the results of more Covid-related scientific studies come to light. The trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia will continue to be put on hold until late September, when further decisions are due to be made on the overall arrangement.

In the meantime, Ardern said the country would be maintaining its Covid-19 elimination strategy as it speeds up its inoculation program. As of today, 36.1 percent of New Zealand’s eligible population have received one dose of the jab, while 21.2 percent are now fully vaccinated. The latest changes to the vaccine rollout include allowing all eligible individuals over the age of 16 to book their first dose from September 1, and widening the gap between doses from three to six weeks, so more residents will have partial protection in case the Delta variant slips through the country’s defenses. Ardern affirmed that short, sharp lockdowns were the best way to “crush” community transmission in the next six months, and achieving high rates of vaccination coverage would reduce the risk of lockdowns in the future.

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