New Zealand announces plans to reopen to the world

(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.

By July, fully vaccinated individuals from Australia or visa waiver countries – including the United Kingdom, the United States and many European nations – will be able to enter New Zealand and isolate themselves on arrival, according to the plan.

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.

The country prohibited almost all foreign travelers by March 2020 and requires incoming visitors to spend time in a state-run quarantine facility at their own expense.

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.

The system has allowed New Zealand to keep Covid-19 numbers low and fair 53 Covid-19 deaths has been reported in the country, according to the country’s health ministry. But Ardern has been under increasing pressure to ease border rules and allow New Zealand to reunite with the world – and to the estimated 1 million New Zealanders living abroad.

Ardern said the quarantine of quarantine had been “heartbreaking.”

“But the choice to use the saved undeniable life,” she said, adding that the border rules had bought New Zealand time to become “one of the most vaccinated countries in the world.” New Zealand is fully vaccinated 93% of eligible personsaccording to the Ministry of Health.

“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.

The following month New Zealand announced it would begin a gradual easing of borders by 2022, though the plans were pushed back due to the proliferation of Omicron.
Foreign nationals will be required to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus to enter the country when it reopens.
New Zealand’s move on February 3 comes in the wake of similar steps from neighboring Australia. Like New Zealand, Australia imposed strict boundary rules to shut Covid out. Fully vaccinated citizens, visa holders and individuals from certain countries – including New Zealand, Japan and Singapore – can now travel to Australia without travel exemption.

Jacinda Ardern Photo by Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images

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