Quarantine changes and risk-based ‘pathways of travel’ . . .
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today the country’s plan to reopen its borders to international travel. The plan includes a pilot from October to December this year in which some travellers would be allowed to trial alternatives to the country’s strict 14-day hotel-based managed isolation quarantine (MIQ) system, including shorter MIQ stays and at-home isolation. Beginning in 2022, travellers from low-risk countries would not be required to isolate, travellers from medium-risk countries would be subject to modified isolation, and those from high-risk countries and unvaccinated travellers would undertake a 14-day stay in MIQ. The changes are predicated on high vaccine coverage among people living in New Zealand, although no definitive level was identified.
Current COVID context . . .
New Zealand closed its borders very quickly at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, and tight restrictions have remained in place ever since. The closures have largely kept COVID out of the country, with fewer than 3,000 cases and only 26 deaths to date. Small, infrequent outbreaks have been quashed by tough lockdowns. New Zealand joined Australia in a two-way quarantine-free travel bubble earlier this year, but the subsequent Australian outbreaks have paused such arrangements. New Zealand’s vaccine roll-out, meanwhile, has been criticized for being too slow. Currently, only 21.2 per cent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated, while 36.1 per cent have received at least one dose.
The zero-COVID policy: success or unnecessary pain? . . .
New Zealand’s zero-COVID policy requires strictly closed borders or robust domestic and global vaccination to be effective. The new reopening plan recognizes that global vaccination remains an aspirational goal, that the domestic vaccine program has a long way to go, and that a gradual return to international travel under conditions of calculated risk must be managed carefully. Criticism of New Zealand’s elimination strategy, as it’s known in the country, has focused on economic hardship and family separation that have resulted from closed borders. But those who support such measures, including the head of the country’s independent panel tasked with giving COVID response advice to government during the pandemic, observe that the country has fared far better than almost all other jurisdictions, especially in hospitalizations and deaths.
- New Zealand Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus: The plan to reopen NZ - home isolation, shorter MIQ for vaccinated travellers
- Radio New Zealand: Covid-19: Risk-based border to open from early 2022 - PM Jacinda Ardern
- Stuff: Covid-19 NZ: Government advisory group says borders can open in 2022 without forgoing elimination strategy