The opening of New Zealand’s international border has been accelerated, with self-isolation rules for fully-vaccinated travellers to be axed sooner than expected.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that from 11.59pm on March 2, travellers who have received two doses of vaccine will no longer need to self-isolate upon their arrival.
The government is also bringing forward Step 2 of its phased border reopening plan, so that New Zealanders abroad can return from midnight this Friday, March 4.
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That step was not due to be lifted until March 13.
“Cabinet has agreed to lift all self-isolation requirements for vaccinated travellers entering New Zealand,” COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement.
“That means that all Kiwis coming home and tourists entering the country will be able to step off the plane and immediately connect with family and friends and enjoy all New Zealand has to offer.”
It comes as the nation’s international border finally started to reopen on Monday after more than two years mostly shut-off from the rest of the world.
New Zealanders in Australia are the first group allowed in, with five flights crossing the Tasman on Monday carrying 910 passengers.
Previously, Kiwis overseas had to take part in an online lottery to secure a spot to spend up to 14 days in mandatory hotel quarantine.
Quarantine-free travel to New Zealand was briefly allowed last year when the short-lived Trans Tasman bubble was in operation.
The government will also review bringing forward allowing non-citizens to travel to New Zealand for work or a holiday, with an announcement due in coming weeks.
NZ COVID-19 cases
The sped-up border reopening comes as Kiwis grapple with skyrocketing COVID-19 cases amid a worsening outbreak fueled by the highly-infectious Omicron variant.
The country, which successfully pursued an elimination strategy for much of the pandemic, has smashed its infection records with close to 15,000 cases recorded on both Sunday and Monday.
Infections have been identified in most major cities and towns right across the nation, making the border closure and travel restrictions redundant.
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