New Zealand will allow travelers from low risk countries to enter New Zealand without quarantine starting in 2022. This is as it aims to resume its open borders after almost 18 months of isolation caused by the pandemic.
Tight border controls and its geographic advantage helped New Zealand stamp out COVID-19 much faster than almost all other countries, but this left the Pacific island nation of 5 million almost entirely cut off from the rest of the world.
Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of Australia, stated on Thursday that although the country was not yet ready for full openness, it will be opening in stages starting early next year.
The 41-year old leader stated that “We are simply not in the position to fully open just yet.” He was speaking in an address outlining his plans to connect New Zealand to the rest of the world.
She stated, “When we move, we will be cautious and deliberate because we want to make sure that we are moving with confidence and as much certainty possible.”
Ardern stated that the government would consider opening quarantine-free travel for vaccinated travellers from low-risk nations starting in the first quarter next year.
Travelers from low-risk countries can choose to be self-isolated or spend a short time in a quarantine facility. Unvaccinated travelers or those coming from high risk countries will need to remain in quarantine for 14 days.
A pilot program will allow some vaccinated travellers to travel from October through December of this year. They can then self-isolate and travel around the world.
Ardern was awarded global recognition for his efforts to contain local transmission of COVID-19 using a strict elimination strategy. Only 2,500 people have died in the country.
But pressure has been mounting to reopen https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/virus-free-new-zealand-plans-border-reopening-amid-labor-shortage-2021-08-09 borders as private businesses and the public sector grapples with worker shortages and reduced incomes.
Ardern stated that despite the delayed reopening of government offices, it will continue to implement its elimination strategy in order to preserve its hard-won gains as one the few countries without virus.
However, it isn’t true that all settings will remain the same forever. She said that nobody wants this.
Ardern stated that the country would also accelerate its vaccination rollout, with all eligible age groups able to order their vaccines by Sept. 1, and also move towards a six week gap between doses in order to make sure more New Zealanders get at least partly vaccinated.
New Zealand has had a slower vaccination rate than other countries, with less than 21% being fully vaccinated.
Critics condemned delayed vaccination, claiming that the government must move quicker to ensure people are protected before opening their borders.
“While the number of vaccinations is finally increasing, we still are the slowest country in the OECD or 120th around the globe,” stated Judith Collins, leader of the opposition National Party.
This isn’t the “front of the line” we promised. It is just not fair, especially considering the increased risk associated with new variants.
Delta-fueled outbreaks across Australia led Ardern to last month suspend the so-called “travel bubble” that allowed quarantine-free travel between the two countries.
Reporting by Praveen Món in Wellington Editing By Leslie Adler Matthew Lewis, and Michael Perry
Praveen Menon, a journalist at Reuters, wrote this article and it was licensed legally through Industry Dive’s publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]
Publiated at Thu, 12 August 2021 16:51:08 +0000