New Zealand has announced plans to finally drop mandatory hotel quarantine for nearly all international arrivals after almost two years as the country ditches its ‘zero COVID’ strategy for good. Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, however, is still worried that the border remains the greatest threat in New Zealand’s battle against the pandemic and tourists aren’t welcome just yet.
Under the plans to “reconnect New Zealand” that were announced on Wednesday, the country will initially only allow fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible travellers coming from Australia to skip hotel quarantine beginning 16th January 2022.
Under phase two of New Zealand’s border reopening, New Zealand citizens and residence-class visa holders will be able to travel home quarantine-free from most other countries starting 13th February 2022.
Finally, hotel quarantine will be ditched for foreign passport holders from 30th April 2022 at the earliest. In all cases, however, arrivals will need to self-isolate at home or in a hotel for seven days and take two COVID-19 tests – one just after arrival and a second before exiting isolation.
“Some people and businesses want us to start to open up before Christmas, and that’s understandable, but others want us to be more cautious. We acknowledge it’s been tough but the end of heavily restricted travel is now in sight,” the New Zealand government said in a statement on Wednesday.
“There continues to be a global pandemic with cases surging in Europe and other parts of the world, so we do need to be very careful when reopening the border,” the statement continued.
New Zealand was one of the first countries to shut its borders in March 2020 to great effect, managing to keep the virus at bay and allow life to continue close to normal for most of the pandemic.
Throughout the last 20 months, New Zealand has been able to squash most other community outbreaks, but the country hasn’t been able to contain a Delta variant outbreak that started with just one returned traveller from Australia.
Kiwi’s are coming to terms with the fact that ‘zero COVID’ is now no longer possible but with a highly vaccinated population and new treatment options available, the government is able to reopen, albeit, with local restrictions like social distancing and mask-wearing.
The end date of hotel quarantine or MIQ as it is known in New Zealand will make it much easier for thousands of New Zealanders to return home after being locked out of the country for nearly two years.
The MIQ system has handled nearly 200,000 people since the start of the pandemic but spaces remained limited and many New Zealander’s couldn’t secure a spot in MIQ despite their best attempts.
The news that border rules are about to be eased will also be welcome news for Air New Zealand which openly criticised the government several days ago. The Kiwi flag carrier said it had been forced to cancel more than 1,000 flights to and from Australia up to the end of the year because of the end of quarantine free travel with New Zealand’s closest neighbour.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.