WELLINGTON -- New Zealand will reopen their borders to the rest of the world in the coming months. The government announced Wednesday that New Zealand would allow for the return and relocation of displaced residents starting in January and tourists beginning April.
When the pandemic started, the South Pacific nation placed strict border restrictions. This effectively prohibited tourists from entering the country and required that returning residents spend two weeks in quarantine hotels run by the military.
Sometimes, the demand for quarantine beds exceeds supply. This has led to some residents who have been displaced to wait for months to get slots.
The border measures were crucial in keeping New Zealand safe for the first 18 months after the pandemic.
The August epidemic proved too difficult to control, so New Zealand abandoned its elimination strategy for October. The border measures are becoming increasingly difficult to justify because of rising vaccination rates.
Chris Hipkins, COVID-19 Response Minister, stated that the government made difficult trade-offs in order to keep New Zealanders safe during the pandemic.
"We recognize that it has been difficult. Separation has occurred between families. Hipkins stated that people have been forced to seek shelter in areas they didn't expect to be there for extended periods of time. We are aware of the negative impact these restrictions have on people's lives and livelihoods.
According to the government's plan all travelers arriving in Canada will be required to remain isolated for seven days.
Hipkins stated that it was trying to reduce the risk of infection from incoming travelers by opening the border in stages.
New Zealanders who have been fully vaccinated will be able return to Australia from January 16 without being held in quarantine. They can also travel from other countries from February 13 onwards. Tourists and other travelers will be able to enter the country in stages starting April 30.
New Zealand has also removed a very high-risk designation from some countries, including India, Brazil, and Indonesia. This allows people from these countries to travel or return to New Zealand.
New Zealand earlier this week announced that bars, restaurants, and gyms in Auckland can reopen from Dec. 2, ending the lockdown that began in August in the nation’s largest city.
It also marked a new phase of New Zealand's response. All citizens will be required to have their entire vaccinations in order to attend any activity, from a haircut to a concert.
Around 69% of New Zealanders have been fully vaccinated. This includes 84% of people aged 12 or older. Since the outbreak, New Zealand has only reported 40 deaths from coronavirus.