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The NZ Government Has Mapped Out Its Plan for Reopening Borders to International Travel

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that quarantine-free travel will return in a phased approach once enough New Zealanders are vaccinated.
By Sarah Ward
August 12, 2021
By Sarah Ward
August 12, 2021

For much of the past 18 months, New Zealand hasn't been open to international travel, other than via specific bubbles with nearby nations with low COVID-19 case numbers. Just like Australia, NZ's border policy has favoured closing the borders to help keep the pandemic from spreading widely throughout the country. As the vaccination campaign begins to ramp up, however, the NZ Government is now planning how the nation might begin to reopen to the rest of the world.

Today, Thursday, August 12, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a phased approach to restarting international travel once enough New Zealanders are vaccinated. "The government will use the second half of 2021 to vaccinate as many New Zealanders as possible and safely conduct a self-isolation trial for vaccinated New Zealanders in order to prepare for a phased resumption of quarantine-free travel," Ardern advised in a statement.

"Getting vaccinated is the number one thing everyone can do to be protected against COVID-19, help accelerate our economic recovery, reduce the risk of lockdowns, and safely allow New Zealand's borders to begin re-opening next year," the Prime Minister continued. "The plan announced today is informed by the best available scientific evidence and public health advice. It will allow us to capture the opportunities vaccination brings, while protecting the gains New Zealanders have worked so hard for."

NZ is still maintaining its elimination strategy, but that'll be paired with a sped-up vaccination rollout "to ensure everyone is at least partially vaccinated as soon as possible to reduce the risk and impact of Delta entering the country," Ardern said. The country will move to a six-week period between jabs, so that more folks can get their first shots quicker. And, it's moving eligibility dates forward for groups yet to be vaccinated, with the jab open to everyone over 30 from Wednesday, August 25 — and to all ages from Wednesday, September 1.

Ideally, the expedited vaccination campaign will then allow NZ to allow international travel again from 2022. An exact date hasn't been identified, but Ardern advised that there'll be three different groups. "Low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk travel pathways will be created, and which pathway a traveller takes will be based on the risk associated with where they are coming from and their vaccination status."

So, if you're travelling to or from a country that's deemed low-risk, you'll be able to travel without quarantining — which is how the currently suspended trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia has been working when it's up and running. From a medium-risk destination, if you're vaccinated, there'll be a combination of self-isolation and managed quarantine. The latter will apply for a shorter period, though. And, from high-risk spots, the same 14-day managed quarantine requirement will remain, regardless of whether you're vaccinated or not.

For the medium-risk option, NZ will run a self-isolation pilot later in 2021, in order to test the processes and systems required. "Businesses and organisations that need to send staff overseas will be invited to express interest in participating in the pilot which will run between October and December 2021," said Ardern.

Also part of the process, and for all pathways: developing a traveller health declaration system, looking into rapid testing on arrival at airports, investigating reliable pre-departure testing, strengthening contact tracing, and trialling self-isolation arrangements for some New Zealanders.

For more information about the New Zealand Government's plan for reopening NZ borders, head to the NZ Government website.

Published on August 12, 2021 by Sarah Ward
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