Sydney, Australia, Oct 28 (EFE).- New Zealand announced Thursday that it will halve the mandatory hotel quarantine period for international arrivals to seven days from Nov. 14, a first step on the way to the eventual reopening of its borders.
Arrivals will be tested for Covid-19 three times during that week, “followed by a short period of self-isolation at home – around three days,” Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced.
“The second stage of our plan will see New Zealand moving towards having more vaccinated people able to self-isolate at home instead of in [quarantine].”
The country, which enforces some of the strictest policies in the world against the Covid-19 pandemic, will also expand one-way quarantine-free travel to include fully vaccinated travelers from the Pacific Island nations of Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu, and those eligible from Tokelau, on Nov. 8, Hipkins said.
Existing quarantine free travel arrangements with the Cook Islands and Niue will be maintained.
Under the tough border closures implemented in March 2020, New Zealand only allows limited entry to residents and citizens, as well as other exemptions for specific humanitarian or business reasons.
However, many of the estimated 1 million New Zealanders living abroad strongly criticize the authorities’ measures given the great difficulty of returning to their country through a lottery system where demand far exceeds quarantine rooms available.
Last week, the government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set the goal of reaching a 90 percent vaccination target to begin reopening of the economy and country.
The authorities, who have not specified a date on when they will reach the mark, have so far fully vaccinated 72 percent of the target population, and those with one dose have reached 87 percent.
New Zealand, which reported 97 new community cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, has kept the residents of Auckland, its most populated city, mostly confined since mid-August.
The country has accumulated some 6,000 infections (probable and confirmed) since the beginning of the pandemic, including 28 deaths. EFE