Jacinda Ardern, the archipelago’s first female minister with one of the world’s strictest COVID regulations, has announced that New Zealand will not fully reopen its borders until October.
Ms Ardern has unveiled a five-step plan to restore New Zealand’s relationship with the rest of the planet. The first is to end the mandatory quarantine at the hotel for citizens stranded abroad due to the pandemic.
From February 27, New Zealanders who are currently in Australia will be able to return to their country and observe quarantine at home instead of in hotels. After two weeks, all the citizens currently present will be able to do the same.
Over the weeks, quarantine measures will be lifted, particularly for skilled immigrants, international students, Australians and then all vaccinated foreign travelers.
“It’s time to move on again,” Ardern said, nearly two years after the South Pacific nation’s borders were closed.
“Families and friends need to come together, our business needs skills to grow, and exporters need to travel to build new relationships.”
As part of this plan, travelers from abroad will have to self-isolate for 10 days and no longer be quarantined in a hotel under military monitoring.
Only 800 rooms are available per month and demand regularly exceeds supply, which raises a lot of criticism.
Many New Zealanders have been unable to return to see their dying loved ones or even give birth in their country.
A recently pregnant New Zealand journalist told how she was finally granted a place in quarantine this week after she reassured New Zealand authorities that she would have to give birth in Afghanistan.
The prime minister acknowledged that the quarantine system in place was too harsh, but it was a key component of New Zealand’s success in fighting the pandemic.
The archipelago recorded only 53 deaths for five million people.
New Zealand originally planned to begin easing border measures in January and fully reopen in April, but has delayed that plan due to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
According to Ms Ardern, with nearly 95% of the population fully vaccinated, change is now possible. The quarantine regime will remain in place for unvaccinated people.
“Total coffee aficionado. Travel buff. Music ninja. Bacon nerd. Beeraholic.”