New Zealand to open borders in stages from late February

Sydney, Australia, Feb 3 (EFE).- New Zealand will begin to open its international borders, closed since March 2020, from the end of the month in a five-stage plan that will end in October, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday.

The plan will start Feb. 28 among fully vaccinated nationals and residents – as well as some Australians – who will undergo a PCR Covid-19 test upon arrival and a 10-day home isolation period.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people will need to quarantine 14 days in government facilities.

From Apr. 14, foreign workers whose salary exceeds the New Zealand average wage – NZD 8,581 ($ 5,679) – and temporary workers, will be allowed to travel to the country, and others, some 5,000 foreign students and holders of specific visas, will be allowed in about a month later.

The reopening for Australian tourists and countries that do not require a visa will occur in July, while the rest of foreigners with any type of visa will be able to do so on an unspecified date in October 2022.

Ardern’s government, which applied one of the strictest confinement policies and closure of international borders in the world due to the pandemic, had planned to open to the world on Jan. 17, but the irruption of the omicron variant in the country disrupted these plans.

The prime minister said the delay allowed “to give us the opportunity to push the booster doses, an opportunity that most other countries have never had. And a chance for New Zealanders to take a breather after a tough year and prepare for the next phase.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, New Zealand has limited the repatriation of its citizens by establishing strict quotas in quarantine centers, something that has earned the Ardern government numerous criticisms.

“With the government quarantine centers, not everyone could return home at any time, but this also allowed Covid-19 not to enter as it pleased,” Ardern said Thursday at an Auckland press conference.

According to official data, 94 percent of the target population in New Zealand has received the full course of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 92 percent of the people over 18 will have a booster dose by the end of the month.

The country, whose government was applauded for confining the population with few cases of Covid-19 before the outbreak of the contagious omicron variant, has registered more than 17,000 infections, including more than 1,000 active cases and 53 deaths since the start of the pandemic. EFE


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