This gradual reopening will bring to an end some of the world’s tightest pandemic restrictions, which were put in place almost two years ago by the South Pacific country.
Fully vaccinated travellers will finally be able to enter New Zealand from 30 April 2022, easing border restrictions that have been in place since March last year.
Meanwhile, fully vaccinated New Zealanders and residence visa holders in neighbouring Australia will be able to enter the country from 16 January.
Fully vaccinated residents and visa holders from most other countries will be allowed in from 13 February.
This gradual reopening will bring to an end some of the world’s tightest pandemic restrictions, which were put in place almost two years ago by the South Pacific country to limit the spread of COVID-19 and help its economy bounce back.
But an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant earlier this year has forced a shift in strategy, with the main city of Auckland now only gradually opening up as vaccination rates climb.Advertisement
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said: “A phased approach to reconnecting with the world is the safest approach to ensure risk is carefully managed.
“This reduces any potential impacts on vulnerable communities and the New Zealand health system.”
Under the new rules, travellers will no longer be required to stay at state quarantine facilities, but other measures will be put in place – including a negative pre-departure test, proof of vaccination and a coronavirus test upon arrival.
ANALYSIS BY SHARON MARRIS, NEWS REPORTER AND NEW ZEALANDER IN THE UK
New Zealand has been praised by experts around the world for its tough stance on COVID-19 – it locked down tough and early when the seriousness of the virus became known last year.
But when it closed its international borders, it locked many thousands of overseas-based Kiwis out of their own country.
In recent months, entry for citizens (and a very narrow group of exceptions) has been largely limited by the number of spaces in hotel isolation (Managed Isolation and Quarantine). Getting a space currently means entering a lottery, where tens of thousands of New Zealanders fight for what is usually between 3,000 and 4,000 spots.
It is possible to get an emergency space but the bar is set extremely high – New Zealanders have been stranded overseas with expired visas, some have missed saying goodbye to dying relatives, and a growing number are struggling with the mental effects of what it means to be effectively shut out of one’s country.
Today’s announcement will be met with a huge amount of relief but there will also be frustration that the changes are still so far away.
For months, the number of cases detected among returning New Zealanders has been in single figures – with pre-departure tests and some flights also now requiring vaccination, most of the risk is eliminated before boarding the plane.
The number of cases being picked up among returning New Zealanders is far outstripped by those emerging daily in Auckland.
New Zealanders who travel or live overseas have always felt safe in the knowledge that our passports mean we can go home if things turn sour. And we’re lucky that home is one of the safest and most beautiful places in the world.
New Zealand’s border policies during the pandemic, have shattered that. New Zealanders overseas will welcome the changes, but I don’t think many of us will ever look at our passports in the same way again.