(CNN) – New Zealand has announced that it will begin reopening to the world, signaling an end to nearly two years of tough border rules that have separated families and shut out almost all foreigners.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday outlined a five-step plan that will allow fully vaccinated New Zealand citizens to start traveling from Australia later this month. They will have to isolate themselves on arrival – but they do not have to go to state-run quarantine facilities.
The government’s website says that “self-insulation can be in your home or suitable alternative housing,” so it is not yet known whether non-residents will be able to use hotels, rented apartments or other similar housing for their own self-insulation purposes.
The announcement is a major shift for New Zealand, which introduced some of the world’s strictest border rules in an attempt to shut Covid-19 out.
To deal with the limited quarantine places, New Zealand introduced a quarantine lottery system, which allowed citizens to enter an online queue at certain times in hopes of scoring places.
This has meant that many New Zealanders have struggled to get home – and some have not seen their loved ones for years.
Ardern said the quarantine of quarantine had been “heartbreaking.”
“We are in a new phase in our Covid response,” Ardern said. “Covid as a disease has not affected many of us to date. But with the transmissibility of Omicron, we know we will experience the virus more directly. But the difference here is that we have all the tools possible now to prepare us. ”
New Zealand’s shift away from a zero-Covid approach has been signaled for several months.
Jacinda Ardern Photo by Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images