WELLINGTON • New Zealand will keep its borders closed to most international travellers for a further five months, the government said yesterday, outlining a cautious easing of border curbs that have been in place since Covid-19 hit in March last year.
But those entering the country next year will face significant restrictions, with a mandatory seven-day home isolation period, as well as tests on departure and arrival.
Along with its geographic isolation, the South Pacific country enforced some of the tightest pandemic restrictions among the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, limiting the spread of Covid-19 and helping its economy bounce back faster than many of its peers.
But an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant earlier this year has forced a shift in strategy, with the main city of Auckland only now gradually opening up as vaccination rates climb.
Fully vaccinated international travellers will be allowed to enter New Zealand from April 30, with the reopening staged over time, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told a news conference.
He said fully vaccinated New Zealanders and residence visa holders in neighbouring Australia can travel to New Zealand from Jan 16, while vaccinated New Zealanders and residence visa holders from most other countries will be allowed in from Feb 13.
"A phased approach to reconnecting with the world is the safest approach to ensure risk is carefully managed," Mr Hipkins said. "This reduces any potential impacts on vulnerable communities and the New Zealand health system."
While travellers will no longer be required to stay at state quarantine facilities, he said, other measures will be put in place - including a negative pre-departure test, proof of being fully vaccinated, and a Covid-19 test on arrival.
Some 84 per cent of people in New Zealand from the age of 12 and above are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Representatives from the country's tourism industry, which has struggled to contend with the long absence of foreign visitors, have decried the seven-day isolation requirement.