New Zealand allows quarantine-free travel for vaccinated in three stages

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Australia from Jan 16; Rest of the world from Feb 13; for all travellers from April 30
India and Fiji removed from ‘Covid-19 High Risk Countries List;’ PNG remains

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announcing the opening of borders (Screen Hub)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, November 24, 2021

New Zealand will open its borders to Kiwis and other eligible travellers who are fully vaccinated beginning with Australia on Sunday, January 16, 2022.

Thereafter, New Zealand citizens and other visa-holders will be allowed to travel to from other countries from Sunday, February 13, 2022.

In the third and final stage, all fully-vaccinated people from most countries in the world will be allowed to travel to and from New Zealand from April 30, 2022.

Indonesia, Fiji, India, Pakistan and Brazil will be removed the ‘Covid-19 High Risk Countries List’ from early December.

The Three-Stage Details

Following are the details announced by Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins today:

“Closing our border was one of the first steps that we took to keep our country safe from Covid-19 and it will be the last thing we open up, following our transition into the traffic light protection framework system and lifting of the Auckland boundary,” he said.

The much-criticised MIQ system is being abandoned for most fully-vaccinated travellers, and a few other categories, although it will still be in place for some people, including the unvaccinated and travellers from some countries.

But Mr Hipkins insisted that the MIQ system is a clear, simple and safe plan that includes a mandatory period of self-isolation.

Image from Auckland International Airport Facebook

Those exempt from MIQ

The following travellers will not be required to under MIQ: (1) those with a negative pre-departure test (2) those with a proof of full-vaccination (3) a passenger declaration about travel history (4) a day 0/1 test on arrival (5) a requirement to self-isolate for seven days, and (5) a final negative test before entering the community

Although the Opposition Parties including National and ACT have criticised the government for not opening the border for Christmas, Mr Hipkins said that the government’s announcement gives families, businesses, visitors and airline and airport companies certainty and time to prepare.

“We have always said that we would open in a controlled way, and this started with halving the time spent in MIQ to seven days. Retaining a seven-day isolate at home period for fully vaccinated travellers is an important phase in the reconnecting strategy to provide continued safety assurance. These settings will continue to be reviewed against the risk posed by travellers entering New Zealand,” Mr Hipkins said.

The Three Stages

The three stages of arriving travellers with MIQ-free entry are as follows:

Stage One: Opening to fully-vaccinated New Zealand citizens and residence-class visa holders and other travellers eligible under current settings from Australia from 11.59 pm on January 16, 2022 (provided that they have been in Australia or New Zealand for the past 14 days)

Stage Two: Opening to fully-vaccinated New Zealand citizens and residence-class visa holders and other travellers eligible under our current border settings, from all but Very High-Risk countries, from 11.59 pm Sunday, February 13, 2022.

Stage Three: Opening to fully-vaccinated foreign nationals (possibly staged by visa category), from April 30, 2022.

“While some people and businesses understandably want us to start to open up before Christmas, others want us to be more cautious. We acknowledge that it has been tough but the end of heavily restricted travel is now in sight. There continues to be a global pandemic with cases surging in Europe and other parts of the world, so we do need to be very careful when reopening the border,” he said.

Strong health advice

Mr Hipkins said that the government has had difficult decisions to take but followed expert advice, which continues to show that the border is our biggest risk for new cases.

“For example, our current outbreak which now has over 7000 cases associated with it, stems from a single traveller traveling from Australia to New Zealand. A phased-approach to reconnecting with the world is the safest approach to ensure that risk is carefully managed. This reduces any potential impacts on vulnerable communities and the New Zealand health system. Our dates for opening of borders logically follows the bedding in of the traffic light system, the lifting of the Auckland border, time for regions to get their vaccination rates higher still and for booster shots to be rolled out,” he said.

Further details on how self-isolation will be implemented will be made available in December. This will include guidance on how people can travel from their arrival airport to their location of self-isolation and requirements for the places where they can self-isolate.

“This does not mean the end of MIQ as a system, which was always intended to be temporary at this scale and has served us incredibly well – with more than 190,000 people brought home since our borders closed in March 2020. There will continue to be role for it in the foreseeable future,” Mr Hipkins said.

Some background information

Stage One: Agencies will work with airlines on implementing checks of passengers’ compliance with travel requirements, including vaccination status and pre-departure testing, ahead of a rollout of a digital Traveller Health Declaration System (THDS) towards the end of March. The availability of both New Zealand’s and Australia’s international Covid-19 vaccination certificates will support compliance checks. Immigration New Zealand airline liaison officers will be deployed on the ground as support in Australia.

The three steps constitute a medium risk pathway. Those who do not meet the requirements for medium-risk pathway but are still permitted to enter New Zealand under current border settings, will continue to enter MIQ upon arrival under the new regime of seven days in managed isolation, followed by three days of home isolation.

This will include those who do not meet vaccination requirements (including unvaccinated New Zealand citizens) and those from Very High-Risk (VHR) countries.

India, Fiji, off High Risk countries

The Very High-Risk classification for Indonesia, Fiji, India, Pakistan and Brazil is to be removed in early December and travellers from these countries will be able to enter New Zealand on the same basis as travellers from most other countries.

This allows New Zealand Citizens and those residence-class visa holders and other travellers eligible under our current border settings to travel directly into New Zealand.

Papua New Guinea will continue to be classified as Very High-Risk. Only New Zealand Citizens and dependants can travel directly to New Zealand.

All travellers from Papua New Guinea must spend 14 days in a non-VHR country before coming to New Zealand. Exemptions are provided for humanitarian reasons.

The Covid-19 situation in these countries will continue to be monitored as part of a regular surveillance and assessment process.

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