Explained: The Government's latest border plan
The Government has announced a phased reopening of New Zealand’s borders starting in less than four weeks that will focus on reconnection and recovery.
In a joint statement, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi announced today the border will reopen to vaccinated Kiwis and other current eligible travellers from Australia at 11.59pm on February 27, and to the same groups from the rest of the world only two weeks later on March 13.
The five-stepped reopening plan will see all New Zealanders and key visa holders able to start to enter the country over the coming three months, assisting with economic recovery and immediately addressing worker shortages.
Minister Hipkins says the plan allows the majority of travellers to ditch MIQ while maintaining measures to reduce the spread of Covid-19 in the community from recent arrivals.
“With 94 percent of our population fully vaccinated, and 92 percent of those over 18 now eligible for a booster by the end of February, it’s time to shift gears in our Covid-19 response to focus on reconnection and recovery.
“By reducing the gap to get boosted to three months we’re ensuring we reach our highest possible boosted rates before fully reopening.
“By the time we start to reopen our border, we’ll be one of the most vaccinated and most boosted countries in the world and the Covid-19 Protection Framework will be well established in helping to manage Covid outbreaks.
“Our plan has built in protections to help manage risks such as future variants. A phased approach to reopening reduces the risk of a surge of cases, while prioritising the return of New Zealanders and much needed entry of skilled workers.
MIQ for every traveller was a temporary setting for when vaccination levels were low or non-existent, Minister Hipkins says.
“New Zealanders need to reconnect with one another. Families and friends need to reunite. Our businesses need skills to grow. Exporters need to travel to make new connections.”
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi says the phased reopening will help address skills and labour shortages and accelerate economic recovery.
“Reopening of the border to a range of visa holders is a critical part in our plan to rebuild from Covid.
“Before Covid, New Zealand was issuing over one million visitor visas per year. What’s being announced today is about gearing up in manageable steps to fully reopen as safely as possible to enable us to live with Covid but not be overwhelmed by it.”
From 11.59pm, Sunday 27 February 2022
· Reopen to New Zealanders and other eligible travellers under current border settings (e.g. people with border exceptions) from Australia
From 11:59 pm, Sunday 13 March 2022
· Reopen to New Zealanders and other eligible travellers under current border settings from the rest of the world
· Open to skilled workers earning at least 1.5 times the median wage
· Open to Working Holiday Scheme visas
From 11:59 pm, Tuesday 12 April 2022
· Open to current offshore temporary visa holders, who can still meet the relevant visa requirements,
· Open to up to 5000 international students for semester two
· Further class exceptions for critical workforces that do not meet the 1.5 times the median wage test will be considered
By July 2022
· Open to anyone from Australia
· Open for visa-waiver travel
· The Accredited Employer Work Visa will open, meaning the skilled and health worker border exception can be phased out
· Border fully reopens to visitors from anywhere in the world, and all visa categories fully reopen.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi on what to expect and when:
- From February 27 vaccinated New Zealanders and eligible travellers from Australia will be able to enter New Zealand without staying in MIQ and two weeks later, from March 13, New Zealanders and eligible travellers from the rest of the world will be able to come home.
- While travellers will no longer need to stay in MIQ the Government will maintain border measures to reduce the spread of the virus.
- The self-isolation requirements for travellers will mirror the way contacts of cases are treated in New Zealand. That means a current requirement of 10 days, but that will drop to seven days when the country moves to phase two of its pandemic plan as cases rise.
- Isolation requirements will be kept under constant review, and the Government expects them to reduce. The reopening to visa-free tourists is also likely to be brought forward, with July being the latest date the Government anticipates this happening.
- All arrivals will be provided three rapid antigen tests at the airport, one for use on arrival or day one, and one for use on day five or six, with one extra for backup. This approach means cases that enter through the border will continue to be identified and their impact on the wider community limited.
- In addition whole genome sequencing of all returnees who test positive will continue to rapidly identify and respond to new variants.
- From March, just over five weeks away, the Government will start reopening Working Holiday Visa schemes with an aim to supply urgently needed workers for the tourism, hospitality, wine and horticultural sectors as well as providing some much-needed visitor spending.
- Also from March, the Government’s simplifying the application process for the critical worker border exception. Skilled workers with job offers paying at least 1.5 times, instead of double, the median wage will be able to come in without the need to demonstrate that their skills aren’t readily obtainable in New Zealand.