The New Zealand government says it will keep its borders closed to most international travellers for a further five months, outlining a cautious easing of border curbs that have been in place since COVID-19 hit in March 2020.
Along with its geographic isolation, the South Pacific country enforced some of the tightest pandemic restrictions among OECD nations, limiting the spread of COVID-19 and helping its economy bounce back faster than many of its peers.
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.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told a news conference, fully vaccinated international travellers will be allowed to enter the country from 30th April 2022 onwards, with the re-opening staged over time.
Fully vaccinated New Zealanders and residence visa holders in neighbouring Australia can travel to New Zealand from January 16, while vaccinated New Zealanders and residence visa holders from other countries will be allowed in from February 13.
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.”
He said 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 being fully vaccinated, and a COVID-19 test on arrival.