The dismantling of New Zealand’s hard border will begin early next year, with Kiwis in Australia the first to bypass hotel quarantine. But there will still be a week of self-isolation required for all arrivals.
From January 17, fully vaccinated New Zealanders in Australia will be able to return home if they self-isolate for a week.
All travellers must also have a negative pre-departure test 72 hours before travel, proof of vaccination, a travel declaration, a test on arrival, a suitable self-isolation venue and another test before entering the community.
Fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible travellers from all other countries could start travelling to New Zealand without quarantine from February 13, Mr Hipkins said, and all other non-Kiwis can come from April 30.
While not confirmed, the hope is that the February 13 date will include Australian travellers, though they would still be subject to the same arrival restrictions as per the above at this stage.
COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said vaccination rates meant “the time is right to carefully start the reopening of our borders”.
“This is about opening the borders in a progressive and safe way,” he said.
“It’s very encouraging that as a country we are now in a position to move towards greater normality.”
Mr Hipkins said the first two dates were “locked-in” and people should make plans, with some ambiguity around the April 30 date based on public health advice.
The decision calls time on New Zealand’s much-loathed quarantine regime, known as managed isolation and quarantine, or MIQ.
All entrants to New Zealand must currently win a place in MIQ through a ballot, or through limited compassionate or economic exemptions.
Arrivals must then pay to spend time in a quarantine hotel.
More than 190,000 people have gone through MIQ, but those who have missed out have been locked out of their own country.
The decision to delay the reopening to January will see many trans-Tasman families sadly kept apart over Christmas again with Air New Zealand this week announcing the cancellation of over 1000 flights.
Mr Hipkins acknowledged the suffering but said the system was crucial in minimising the impact of coronavirus in New Zealand.
“When it comes to COVID-19, there are often no easy decisions,” he said.
“We’ve often been faced with the task of making the least worst decision … the border is clearly an example of that.”
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