New Zealand officials said Thursday they will gradually loosen their border quarantine requirements starting next month.
At some point in November, returning Kiwis will only need to serve a 7-day mandatory quarantine at a military-ran hotel instead of the 14 days they have to currently observe.
According to the Covid-19 Response Minister, some travelers from low-risk Pacific island countries could even avoid hotel quarantine and isolate at home.
New Zealand’s border control system is said to be one of the hardest worldwide.
For more than 19 months, the country has been cut off from the rest of the world due to its “zero-tolerance” policy.
However, following an outbreak of the Delta variant in Auckland that sank the city into a severe 2-month lockdown, authorities decided to try a more flexible strategy.
Australia’s Prime Minister then said that citizens would have to learn how to live with COVID-19. This also implied that the country would seek a gradual reopening to the world.
For stranded New Zealanders who had to turn to legal actions to secure a room in the quarantine entry system, the change in the policy has come as a welcome relief.
“I acknowledge that there’s a lot of pressure there. My message to people who are keen to get back into New Zealand is: there isn’t very long to wait now,” said the Covid-19 Minister.
And what about the rest of the tourists? When will they have access to New Zealand?
First things first. Starting Nov. 1, anyone wishing to enter the country, including nationals, residents, essential workers, and the other handful of allowed visitors must be double vaccinated.
Regarding when the policy reforms will make it possible for visitors to return, it still remains unknown.
According to the minister, the “new rules” are the first step toward larger reopening measures that would be introduced once more than 90 percent of New Zealanders are fully vaccinated.
To date, 72 percent of those who are eligible have received a complete series of a vaccine.
“Encouraging their fellow New Zealanders to get fully vaccinated will help us get to that point faster,” he concluded.