The government of New Zealand has set out a three-step plan to reopen its borders in 2022 for the first time since the start of the pandemic, with foreign visitors to be welcomed beginning in April.

At one minute before midnight on Jan. 16, New Zealand will allow fully vaccinated citizens, residence-class visa holders and other eligible travelers to enter the country from Australia without the need to enter managed isolation and quarantine, provided they have not travelled to a third country within the 14 days prior to arrival in New Zealand. However, arrivals still will have to isolate for seven days. 

Travelers will be required to provide proof of Covid-19 vaccination, a negative pre-departure Covid-19 test and a passenger declaration of travel. On arrival, they will have to self-isolate for seven days and take a Covid-19 test on day zero or one. A final negative test result will be required on day seven to be allowed to leave isolation.

Then, at one minute before midnight on Feb. 13, fully vaccinated New Zealand citizens, residents and visa holders will be allowed to enter from “all but very high-risk countries,” according to the government. 

Finally, from April 30 onward, the country plans to begin allowing fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter, though the government said this could be staged by visa category.

Flag carrier Air New Zealand has announced that it will make Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for all international flights beginning in February 2022.

New Zealand has had some of the toughest travel restrictions in the world alongside Australia, which also is in the process of reopening its borders. Since March 2020, foreign travelers have been allowed only in extremely limited circumstances, such as for compassionate reasons, while citizens and residents have been subject to the government-managed managed isolation and quarantine, currently seven days followed by three days of self-isolation at home. 

The news comes as the country prepares to move to a traffic light system for restrictions from Dec. 3, with green indicating Covid-19 transmission in the community is limited and there are no restrictions. Orange will indicate cases are rising and public spaces will be limited to allow for social distancing, while red will indicate action is needed to bring case levels down and regional boundaries may be needed to contain local outbreaks.

The city of Auckland, currently essentially isolated from the rest of the nation, will have some border restrictions eased from Dec. 15 to Jan. 17. Residents will be able to leave the area so long as they are fully vaccinated or test negative for Covid-19 within 72 hours of travel. 

In a statement, the government said: “We are making this announcement to give families, businesses, visitors and airline and airport companies certainty and time to prepare. It’s very encouraging that as a country we are now in a position to move towards greater normality.

The government said further details on how the self-isolation period will be implemented will be released in December, including guidance on how travelers can transit from the airport to their location and the requirements for the places they can complete their isolation.

There are plans to roll out a digital traveler health declaration system toward the end of March 2022 to help airlines implement checks of passengers’ compliance with travel requirements.

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