After nearly two years, New Zealand has revealed plans to end obligatory hotel quarantine for practically all international travelers, thereby ending the country’s ‘zero COVID’ approach.
Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, on the other hand, is concerned that the border remains the most serious threat to New Zealand’s fight against the epidemic, and tourists are not yet welcome.
Beginning January 16, 2022, under the “reconnect New Zealand” plans revealed on Wednesday, the country will only allow fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible tourists arriving from Australia to escape hotel quarantine.
Beginning February 13, 2022, under phase two of New Zealand’s border reopening, New Zealand citizens and residents with residence-class visas will be able to travel home quarantine-free from most other countries.
Finally, hotel quarantine will be abolished for foreign passport holders as early as April 30, 2022. Arrivals must, in all situations, self-isolate for seven days at home or in a hotel and take two COVID-19 tests, one immediately after arrival and the other before entering isolation.
“Some people and businesses want us to start to open up before Christmas, and that’s understandable, but others want us to be more cautious. We acknowledge it’s been tough but the end of heavily restricted travel is now in sight,” the New Zealand government said in a statement on Wednesday.
“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” the statement continued.
New Zealand was one of the first countries to lock its borders in March 2020, and it worked well, keeping the virus at bay and allowing life to return to normal for the duration of the pandemic.
New Zealand has been able to limit most previous community outbreaks over the last 20 months, but it has not been able to contain a Delta variant outbreak that began with just one returned traveler from Australia.
The government is able to reopen, albeit with local restrictions such as social distancing and mask-wearing, due to the fact that ‘zero COVID’ is no longer possible.
With a highly vaccinated population and new treatment options available, the government is able to reopen, albeit with local restrictions such as social distancing and mask-wearing.
The end of hotel quarantine, or MIQ as it is called in New Zealand, will make it much easier for thousands of New Zealanders to return home after nearly two years of being shut out of the nation.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, the MIQ system has processed approximately 200,000 persons, but capacity has remained restricted, and despite their best efforts, many New Zealanders have been unable to gain a place in MIQ.
The news that border controls are set to be relaxed will be welcomed by Air New Zealand, which has been vocal in its criticism of the government in recent days.
Because of the end of quarantine-free travel with New Zealand’s nearest neighbor, the Kiwi flag airline said it will have to cancel more than 1,000 flights to and from Australia until the end of the year.