New Zealand’s Borders Could Remain Shut This Year

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says a general reopening will not happen until enough of the population is “vaccinated and protected.”

A view of Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak. (Photo: Timo Volz/Unsplash)

Unless they’re based in Australia, overseas travelers aching to book a nature-filled holiday in New Zealand will have to hold off on those plans until at least 2022. At her first post-Cabinet press conference of the year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern signaled that non-resident foreign nationals would still be barred from entering the country “for much of this year.”

“For travel to restart, we need one of two things,” Ardern said. “We either need the confidence that being vaccinated means you don’t pass Covid-19 on to others — and we don’t know that yet — or we need enough of our population to be vaccinated and protected that people can safely reenter New Zealand. Both possibilities will take some time.”

Unlike other countries such as Singapore, the United States, and the United Kingdom, New Zealand has not yet started its vaccination program. Border personnel and workers at quarantine hotels — along with their close contacts — will be the first to be inoculated within three weeks of the arrival of the first shipment from Pfizer, likely in the second quarter of 2021. Meanwhile, the vaccine rollout for the general population will not happen until the middle of the year, with the exact timeline still dependent on the speed of delivery by pharmaceutical companies.

Ardern added that she remained committed to opening up a two-way quarantine-free “travel bubble” with Australia and Pacific nations such as the Cook Islands. But the leader said it was increasingly difficult to pursue the former on a national level, and her administration would be looking at negotiating bubbles with individual Australian states. However, she ruled out creating new travel corridors with low-risk countries elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, explaining that reopening New Zealand’s borders to the rest of the world at this stage poses “too great a risk to our health and our economy.”

Share this Article