New Zealand has announced a phased reopening of its border, beginning at the end of February.
With the exception of a brief travel bubble with Australia, the country has remained closed to international travel as part of a “zero-Covid” policy aimed at minimising the spread of the virus.
The country shut its borders in March 2020 with the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, stating: “We need to do this for the health of the country, and our people.”
In a speech on Thursday (3 February), Ardern announced the first steps in the country’s gradual reopening.
“With Omicron’s arrival, we pushed that change in border settings out – to give ourselves the chance to roll out boosters – a chance most other countries never had,” she said.
“With our community better protected we must turn to the importance of reconnection. Families and friends need to reunite. Our businesses need skills to grow. Exporters need to travel to make new connections.”
But what does this mean for travellers hoping to visit the Land of the Long White Cloud? Here’s everything you need to know.
When will New Zealand open to travellers?
British travellers keen to visit New Zealand will have something of a wait on their hands under the current schedule.
This is the timeline outlined on 3 February:
- From 11.59pm on 27 February, fully vaccinated New Zealanders in Australia will be permitted entry. Rather than staying at one of the country’s expensive quarantine facilities, known as MIQ, they must self-isolate at home for 10 days. They will also be required to take multiple Covid tests during this period.
- From 11.59pm on 13 March - a fortnight later - New Zealanders from other parts of the world and their families will be allowed to return under the same conditions. Some skilled and critical workers will also be permitted to return, and the working holiday scheme will resume. Ardern said this two-week gap would enable public health services to adjust in anticipation of a rise in Covid cases and will allow the border system to “keep scaling up in the safest way possible”.
- From 12 April, non-citizens with visas and up to 5,000 international students will be allowed to enter.
- By July, tourists from the UK, US, Australia and other visa-free countries will be allowed back in. An exact date has yet to be confirmed, but Ardern said there was a “high-likelihood” that the July date could be brought forward. She stated: “This stage is likely to begin when we have much larger case numbers than we have now. For planning, we anticipate this stage will begin no later than July. I want to place strong emphasis on this being the latest we expect this to begin.”
- Finally, in October 2022, tourists from the rest of the world will once more be permitted entry to New Zealand under the current schedule.
What rules are currently in place in New Zealand?
New Zealand is operating a traffic light system based on infection rates and perceived risk. It is currently on ‘red’, the highest alert level with the most restrictions.
Passengers on all public transport and domestic flights in New Zealand are legally required to wear a face mask. To take domestic flights within New Zealand, you must either be fully vaccinated or have a negative Covid-1 result from a test administered no more than 72 hours before your flight.
Face coverings are also mandatory in retail settings, although public facilities and retail outlets are open, with limits on capacity in place.
Hospitality outlets and gyms can open and weddings can go ahead with vaccine passes required and a maximum of 100 people. Without a vaccine pass, hospitality venues “must remain contactless” and are limited to 25 people.
According to the Foreign Office, social distancing is “recommended in public places”.
The New Zealand government also requires people to keep track of their movements and who they have seen to help with contact tracing. The NZ Covid-19 Tracer app is available to download for this purpose, with all shops and businesses displaying their QR codes for scanning.
You may require evidence of vaccination for entry into businesses and premises in New Zealand.
What is the current rate of Covid infections and vaccinations in New Zealand?
On Thursday 3 February, 96 per cent of the population had received a first dose of the vaccine, while 94 per cent had received a second dose. Seventy per cent of eligible people have also received a booster shot.
New Zealand currently has 1,974 active Covid cases.
There have been a total of 53 Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
New Zealand has a population of just under five million.
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