New Zealand to reopen border in 5 stages from Feb 27

WELLINGTON, Feb 3: The New Zealand border will reopen to vaccinated Kiwis and other current eligible travellers from Australia February 27 midnight and to the same groups from the rest of the world on March 13.

The government’s five-step reconnecting plan will see all New Zealanders and key visa holders able to start to enter the country over the coming three months, assisting with the economic recovery and immediately address worker shortages, Xinhua news agency quoted Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as saying.

From February 27, vaccinated New Zealanders and eligible travellers from Australia will be able to enter New Zealand without staying in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities. Two weeks after March 13, New Zealanders and eligible travellers from the rest of the world will be able to come home, Ardern said.

“While travellers will no longer need to stay in MIQ we are maintaining border measure to reduce the spread of the virus,” she said, adding that the self-isolation requirements for travellers will be 10 days, but that will drop to seven days when New Zealand moves to phase two of the pandemic plan as cases rise.

On April 12, border extension will be extended to include a large international student cohort of up to 5,000 students for entry ahead of semester two and temporary visa holders who still meet relevant visa requirements.

The reopening to visa free tourists is also likely to be brought forward, with July being the latest date, she said, adding that in October the border will open to all other visitors and students who require a visa to enter New Zealand, with normal visa processing resuming.

All arrivals will be provided three rapid antigen tests at the airport, one for use on day 0/1, and one for use on day 5/6, with one extra for backup, Ardern said.

In about five weeks, the Working Holiday Visa schemes will be reopened. This will supply urgently needed workers for the tourism, hospitality, wine and horticultural sectors as well as providing some much-needed visitor spending, said Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi.

“Before Covid, New Zealand was issuing over one million visitor visas per year. What’s being announced today is about gearing up in manageable steps to fully re-open as safely as possible to enable us to live with Covid but not be overwhelmed by it,” he said.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said with 94 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, and 92 per cent of those over 18 now eligible for a booster by the end of February, it’s time to focus on reconnection and recovery.

(IANS)