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NZ Government announces border reopening plan

February 3, 2022

NZ Government announces border reopening plan

February 3, 2022

The New Zealand Government has announced its stepped plan to remove Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) requirements for vaccinated travellers and open up the border, first to New Zealanders and then non-New Zealanders.

The lifting of restrictions will start with MIQ-free arrival for New Zealanders coming from Australia from 11:59 27 February.

Steps (for vaccinated travellers)

These dates are subject to a Cabinet review on 20 February. Previous openings have been set back by the arrival of Delta and then Omicron.

With the removal of MIQ, arrivals will be required to self-isolate for 10 days initially. This will reduce to 7 days once the country moves to Phase 2 of the Omicron response (when isolation periods for domestic close contacts will also drop to 7 days). All arrivals will be given three Rapid Antigen Tests for their use while in self-isolation.

The Government has not yet decided when self-isolation requirements will be removed entirely. MIQ will remain for the unvaccinated. A core quarantine capacity will remain, and will form the basis of a National Quarantine Service (details on this to be announced at a later date).

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that high vaccination rates and booster uptake will allow opening up to occur safely. 96% of the population aged 12 and over is now at least partially vaccinated and, by the end of February, 92% of the population aged 18 and over will be eligible for their booster (the wait period for boosters was reduced this week to 3 months).

The arrival of Omicron in the community undermines the rationale for MIQ. By the end of February, modelling forecasts there will be thousands of cases a day.

The end of border restrictions and the passing of the Omicron wave will, hopefully, signal the end of the emergency response to COVID. Prime Minister Ardern highlighted that the Government is beginning to switch its focus to life after the pandemic.

Ardern has announced that she will lead four trade delegations overseas this year – Australia, Asia, the United States and Europe.

The Prime Minister also indicated she does not want post-COVID New Zealand to be a return to ‘business as usual’, saying “We have a chance to do things differently” and “when we look back in 20 years’ time at this period in our country’s history, I don’t want people to just see Covid. I want them to see an economy and country that was fundamentally repositioned to become more sustainable and resilient and taking on the challenges of poverty, inequality, climate change and mental health, problems the world is grappling with.”

On specifics, she said COVID has “laid bare our unsustainable reliance on temporary migrant labour”, hinting that the Government does not intend the future to see a return to the mass immigration of pre-COVID. The Productivity Commission is currently advising the Government on immigration reform.

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