New Zealand announced, on Wednesday, that its borders will remain closed to foreign travelers until the end of next April covid-19 pandemic. This decision comes at a time when the archipelago is gradually relaxing the arrival procedures for international arrivals, which are so far among the strictest in the world.
The minister responsible for combating Covid-19, Chris Hepkins, has indicated that New Zealanders stranded in Australia may return from mid-January, and those from the rest of the world will have to wait until February. For their part, foreigners will be able to travel to the archipelago from the end of April, according to the gradual reopening plan unveiled on Wednesday. “We are aware that the situation has been difficult, but the end of travel restrictions is imminent,” the minister said.
New Zealand closed its borders in March 2020. All people coming from abroad were required to observe a two-week hotel quarantine. This period has recently been reduced to seven days.
Chris Hepkins went further on Wednesday by announcing that with the gradual opening of its borders, to Australia and then to the rest of the planet, travelers will have to self-isolate at home for seven days after they have proven completely immune and negative.
Reopening for Christmas ‘Unreal’
The announcement comes amid growing pressure from New Zealanders stranded abroad and frustration at not being able to book rooms in quarantine hotels, which are in short supply.
New Zealand earlier this week announced a change in its strategy to fight Covid-19, deciding to contain the delta variant rather than eliminate it. The disease killed only 40 people out of five million people. But the authorities admitted that the Delta version was a game-changer and that they had to give up their zero goal for Covid.
The minister in charge of combating Covid-19 acknowledged that many residents want the borders to reopen at Christmas. But he felt this was unrealistic. “The global pandemic continues, with an increase in the number of cases in Europe and other parts of the world,” he said. “So we have to be careful about reopening our borders, and that’s what we’ve been doing and what we’ve always done.”
He said that from next month, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Fiji and Brazil will no longer be classified as high-risk countries, allowing their citizens to travel to New Zealand from April 30.
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