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New Zealand's Three-Step Border Reopening Plan Has Been Pushed Out Until February

As the threat of the Omicron variant continues to grow, the Government has pushed the country's proposed three-step border reopening plan by at least a month.
By Sarah Templeton
December 21, 2021
By Sarah Templeton
December 21, 2021

Those who were excitedly planning a New Year's holiday to the Gold Coast have been dealt another COVID-related blow.

On Tuesday, December 21, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed in a press conference the threat of the Omicron variant of COVID has caused the Government to push its proposed border-reopening plan by at least a month.

Last month, Hipkins announced many Kiwis could prepare to bid farewell to MIQ come January 17, as restrictions were set to lift — slightly — for vaccinated New Zealanders and those who hold NZ visas. A three-step plan was proposed to allow Kiwis travelling from Australia into the country sans MIQ to begin with, before opening up to other international travellers later in 2022.

At the first step, fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible travellers would be able to return to New Zealand from Australia, without a two week stay in MIQ facilities, and would only need to self-isolate for seven days and provide a negative test before entering the community.

But thanks to the threat of the Omicron variant of COVID that has been rapidly spreading overseas in recent weeks, Hipkins explained on Tuesday that Cabinet has chosen to make the "disappointing" decision to push out the start of non-MIQ travel until the end of February 2022.

"There's no doubt this is disappointing and will upset many holiday plans, but it's important to set these changes out clearly today so they can have time to consider those plans," he said.

"COVID-19 keeps throwing new curve balls and we have to respond in a way that continues to protect lives and livelihoods without putting in place restrictions and lockdowns unless absolutely necessary.

"Waiting till the end of February will increase New Zealand's overall protection and slow Omicron's eventual spread."

However it wasn't all bad news. Hipkins also noted that the 'traffic light' framework currently in place will hopefully be used to manage any NZ outbreaks, and lockdowns will only be used as a "last resort".

More information about the international travel three-step plan, and Hipkins' full statement from Tuesday can be found on the New Zealand Government website.

Top images: Tourism Australia, Tourism Canberra

Published on December 21, 2021 by Sarah Templeton
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