Coming months could see the start of the steps to reconnect New Zealand to rest of the world with phased re-opening of its borders.
The Government’s framework for re-opening borders and moving to an individualised risk-based model for quarantine-free travel was unveiled at a forum on Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World in Wellington today.
The release of the plan followed the publication of Sir David Skegg’s Strategic COVID-19 Public Health Advisory Group’s advice to Government yesterday.
“Getting vaccinated is the number one thing everyone can do to be protected against COVID-19, help accelerate our economic recovery, reduce the risk of lockdowns, and safely allow New Zealand’s borders to begin re-opening next year,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
She said the borders were the greatest challenge.
“We cannot keep border restrictions on forever, and to be absolutely clear we do not want to either,” Ardern said.
From next year once there was a ‘reasonable coverage’ of vaccine, the pathways of travel system would start.
The set up plan would eventually see creation of three travel pathways into New Zealand- Low-Risk, Medium-Risk and High-Risk.
Each pathway will have testing and isolation requirements proportionate to that risk and which pathway a traveller takes will be based on the risk associated with where they are coming from and their vaccination status.
“The Low-Risk pathway will permit quarantine free entry for vaccinated travellers who have been in low risk countries.
“The Medium-Risk pathway would include a combination of self-isolation and/or reduced MIQ for vaccinated travellers who have been in medium risk countries.
“To prepare for the Medium-Risk pathway the Government will run a self-isolation pilot in the second half of this year to test processes and systems for the safe use of this tool.
“That means if you have been to a country where there is Covid but pretty decent rates of vaccination, and you yourself are vaccinates, rather than going into MIQ, we will be looking at either isolation at home and/or shortened isolation periods.”
Unvaccinated travellers and all travellers from high risk countries would still have to do 14 days in an MIQ facility.
“The High-Risk pathway will see the continuation of a full 14 days in MIQ and testing for unvaccinated travellers and any traveller, including vaccinated travellers, who have been in very high risk or high risk countries.”
Prime Minister Ardern set out changes to the vaccines rollout, including speeding up the first dose by allowing people of all eligible ages to book by September 1.
“We are also bringing forward the eligibility dates (for vaccine eligibility) for the remaining groups. As already announced 50 plus will be open from Friday 13th August, 40 plus will be open on Wednesday 18th August, 30 plus will be open on Wednesday 25th August and from 1 September we will be open for all eligible ages,” she said.
She however added even after most of the population was vaccinated, the borders have to be opened in a phased manner as several countries still have low vaccination rate.