New Zealand’s tough border restrictions will start coming down next year. (RNZ/AFP)
New Zealand’s tough border restrictions will start coming down next year. (RNZ/AFP)

The BulletinNovember 25, 2021

Border to reopen to vaccinated travellers from January

New Zealand’s tough border restrictions will start coming down next year. (RNZ/AFP)
New Zealand’s tough border restrictions will start coming down next year. (RNZ/AFP)

Nearly two years after the managed-isolation system was created, fully vaccinated New Zealanders will be able to fly home over a three stage reopening plan next year, Justin Giovannetti writes in The Bulletin.

Opening up Fortress New Zealand. For the second year in a row there won’t be many Christmas reunions with overseas travellers. But in early 2022 the country’s borders will reopen in the most significant change to international travel since the start of the pandemic. From January 17, all fully vaccinated New Zealanders will be able to return from Australia, as long as they can provide a negative pre-departure test and self-isolate for seven days on arrival. They’ll need another negative test before re-entering the community. The old trans-Tasman bubble, where you could step off a plane into the country without restrictions, is over. RNZ has more on the plan, however, most of the details haven’t been firmed up yet.

The border will then open to the rest of the world in stages. On February 14, three weeks after flights resume from Australia, the border will open to further include New Zealanders returning from all countries. From April 30, the country will open to all fully vaccinated foreign nationals, however the testing and self-isolation requirement will remain, so mass tourism is unlikely. On self-isolation, Stuff reports Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins saying friends and family coming to New Zealand and staying at your home can hang out with you during their isolation period, so they don’t actually need to stay locked up in a room. You don’t need to isolate after spending time together. It might sound counterintuitive, but that’s the plan.

Does this mean the end of MIQ? The government’s border facilities will still exist for New Zealanders who aren’t fully vaccinated and as insurance, in case of a worsening global situation, but this will mark the end of managed-isolation for most returnees. It’s also pretty hard to fly unvaccinated these days, so rooms should be more readily available than they are right now. The MIQ system became mandatory in April 2020 and nearly 190,000 people have been through it since then. After months of trying to get into the border system, often unsuccessfully, the move has been met by relief and frustration by New Zealanders overseas, The Guardian reports.

There’s also a change to countries considered very high risk. India, Pakistan, Brazil, Indonesia and Fiji are being taken off the list from early December. People will eventually be able to travel from those countries directly to New Zealand. Only one country will remain in the very high risk category: Papua New Guinea. The classification reflects a sobering fact about PNG: it has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the world. According to The Conversation, the country’s 1.7% vaccination rate isn’t due to a lack of vaccine, but a massive campaign of full-blown opposition to the jab.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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