New Zealand to reopen borders for vaccinated travelers

Sydney, Australia, Nov 24 (EFE).- New Zealand will reopen its borders to fully vaccinated travelers in a phased reopening starting in January 2022, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced Wednesday.

New Zealand nationals and residents coming from Australia can enter from Jan. 16, and from the rest of the world from Feb. 13 without having to go into a managed isolation quarantine (MIQ) facility, a statement from Hipkins said.

Foreign travelers will be able to enter from Apr. 30, “possibly staged by visa category.”

“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,” Hipkins said.

New Zealand sealed its borders in March 2020 to keep out Covid-19 and has since carried out a strict and very limited return policy for citizens and residents, requiring time in MIQ on arrival.

With the reopening, travelers must present proof of full vaccination, a negative Covid-19 test prior to departure and on arrival, and another after seven days of self-isolation on landing.

“Closing our border was one of the first steps we took to keep our country safe from Covid-19 and it’ll be the last thing we open up,” said Hipkins in the statement.

“We are making this announcement today to give families, businesses, visitors and airline and airport companies certainty and time to prepare. It’s very encouraging that as a country we are now in a position to move towards greater normality.”

People arriving from countries classed as “very high risk” (so far only Papua New Guinea from early December) and those not fully vaccinated will be excepted or subject to additional requirements.

On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country will adopt a new flexible “traffic light system” of restrictions across the country starting in December, focused on suppression of the virus, rather than an elimination strategy.

New Zealand acted strongly against Covid-19 at the start of the pandemic and has managed to maintain a low number of infections (about 10,600) and deaths (40).

In October it abandoned its zero-Covid strategy given the increase in vaccination rates. Currently 81 percent of its eligible population is fully vaccinated. EFE


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