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New Zealand Will Remain | Closed To International Travellers Until 2022: Ardern

WELLINGTON: New Zealand will keep its borders closed and overseas travelers locked out until early 2022, at which time quarantine-free entry will be limited to vaccinated travelers from designated ‘low-risk countries.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has outlined her government’s plans for “a phased reopening” which seems likely to dash any hopes that Australians had for a return of the trans-Tasman bubble this year.

And when Australia-New Zealand travel does resume, it’ll look very different to pre-Covid days.

Travelers will need to have been fully vaccinated, present a negative result for a pre-departure Covid test and possibly undergo a rapid on-arrival test, according to recommendations by the country’s Strategic Covid-19 Public Health Advisory Group.

The Australia-New Zealand bubble is currently suspended until late September, and Ardern has previously said this would be “subject to review” to either extend it further or reopen the bubble, based on advice from NZ health officials.

However, she stressed today that “we are not going to open if we consider that there is too much risk to New Zealand. We were clear on that from the beginning and that is still our position.”

The latest outbreaks across New South Wales and in Melbourne make an early reopening unlikely, especially if pockets of uncontrolled outbreaks remain.

Ardern said the country would maintain its hardline elimination strategy for Covid-19, saying that New Zealanders wanted to be able to live freely without the disease rather than living with it.

“If we give up our elimination approach too soon there is no going back, and we could see significant breakouts here like some countries overseas are experiencing who have opened up early in their vaccination rollout.”

Ardern has also hit the accelerator on New Zealand’s vaccination program, with the aim of offering all adults vaccination by the end of the year, before overseas arrivals are considered.

“The first step in our plan is speeding up the vaccination process to ensure everyone is at least partially vaccinated as soon as possible to reduce the risk of and impact of Delta entering the country.”

From the first quarter of 2022, New Zealand will shift to a new model of “risk-based pathways” for quarantine-free travel based on the Covid-19 status of individual countries.

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