New Zealand has announced it will finally reopen to international tourists from the end of April 2022.
The country has had one of the toughest border policies during the pandemic, closed to nearly all foreign visitors since March 2020.
Even New Zealanders faced tough border controls, and were required to quarantine in mandated government facilities for a full two weeks upon entry, plus take Covid tests within 24 hours of arrival and on days three and 12 of isolation.
But the government has confirmed that the island nation will reopen in stages from January next year.
Fully vaccinated Kiwis will be permitted to enter New Zealand from Australia from 16 January, and from the rest of the world from 13 February, without having to quarantine in a facility (though self-isolation will still be required).
The travel ban on foreign tourists will then be lifted from 30 April – although it’s as yet unclear whether this will apply to all visitors or whether reopening will happen in stages depending on countries’ coronavirus infection rates.
All travellers will have to self-isolate for seven days and take a Covid test on arrival, as well as present a pre-departure negative test and provide proof of full vaccination.
The government has revealed that some countries including Indonesia, India and Brazil, will also be removed from its very-high-risk list.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said at a press conference: “A phased approach to reconnecting with the world is the safest approach to ensure risk is carefully managed.
“This reduces any potential impacts on vulnerable communities and the New Zealand health system.”
New Zealand is also pulling back its domestic lockdown measures as it changes tack in its coronavirus strategy.
Bars, restaurants and gyms can reopen in Auckland from early December, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday – although customers will be required to show proof they’ve been fully vaccinated.
Ardern said New Zealand would shift to a “traffic light” system from 2 December, which will revolve around the use of vaccine passports.
New Zealand’s vaccine rollout has happened at pace, with 84 per cent of those aged 12 and over now double-jabbed.