Fully vaccinated citizens, residents and tourists will be allowed to enter the country in three phases, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said at a press conference on Wednesday, Nov. 24.
The border will first open to New Zealanders and residents traveling from neighboring Australia on January 16, before expanding to include New Zealanders to the rest of the world on February 13.
Fully vaccinated visitors from all other countries except those considered “high risk” will be able to visit the Pacific Island nation beginning April 30, Hipkins said.
“A phased approach to reconnecting with the world is the safest approach to ensure risk is carefully managed,” he added. “It reduces potential impacts on vulnerable communities and New Zealand’s health system.”
New Zealand closed its borders in March 2020 as part of its drive to eradicate Covid-19, and has some of the strictest border measures in the world.
The country has recorded more than 10,600 cases and just 40 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. But the relatively low numbers come with a price.
At the moment, those who want to return must go into quarantine in government-run facilities, which have limited space. People had to participate in an online lottery to try and get a spot.
That will change when the new rules come into effect.
Anyone coming to New Zealand will be required to self-isolate at home for seven days, show proof of vaccination, a negative Covid-19 test and a statement that they have not been to a high-risk country, Hipkins said.
According to the country’s Ministry of Health, 84% of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated, while 92% has had at least one dose.
Hipkins said some restrictions will remain in place for the foreseeable future.
“We will eventually reach a point where people will be able to move much more freely across borders and those periods of self-isolation will not be necessary,” he said. “We’re not at that point yet.”