The New Zealand government has set out its plans “to reconnect New Zealanders to the world”, but its borders will remain largely closed until the new year.

The administration said that it would use the second half of 2021 “to vaccinate as many New Zealanders as possible and safely conduct a self-isolation trial for vaccinated New Zealanders in order to prepare for a phased resumption of quarantine-free travel”.

It said that “Once enough people are vaccinated, we will be able to start the next step in the plan: a phased introduction of an individual risk-based approach to border settings in 2022”.

A framework has been published for a risk-based model for quarantine-free travel, which will see vaccinated travellers arriving from “low-risk” countries able to avoid quarantine.

A medium-risk pathway will include “a combination of self-isolation and/or reduced managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ)” for vaccinated travellers who have been in medium risk countries.

To prepare for this, the government plans to invite businesses and organisations to take part in a self-isolation pilot later this year, “to test processes and systems for the safe use of this tool”.

Finally a 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”.

A quarantine-free travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia had opened in April of this year, but it has been largely suspended due to rising cases of Covid-19 in Australia.

New Zealand suspends Australia travel bubble “for at least eight weeks”

The government said that ongoing work to prepare for the reopening of its borders included:

  • the development of a traveller health declaration system
  • investigating new testing technology for rapid testing on arrival at airports and reliable pre-departure testing as well
  • piloting self-isolation arrangements for some New Zealanders
  • strengthening other public health measures such as contact tracing

The country is moving to a six-week strategy between vaccine doses, and is bringing forward eligibility dates for groups yet to be vaccinated, with all eligible ages being able to book jabs from September 1.

In a statement the government said:

“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.

“Therefore 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 and impact of Delta entering the country.”