NZ to ease toughest border controls next year – traffic light law passed

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Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins (top left) ... "It's very encouraging that we as a country are now in a position to move towards greater normality." Image: RNZ

RNZ News

New Zealand’s most restrictive border controls will be eased early next year, the government announced today.

Most fully-vaccinated travellers into New Zealand would not be required to go through managed isolation from early next year, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

A seven-day self-isolation requirement will take the place of MIQ.

Hipkins revealed fully-vaccinated New Zealanders would be able to travel from Australia without having to quarantine from 11.59pm on 16 January, and from 11.59pm on 13 February that would extend to fully-vaccinated New Zealanders from all countries.

From April 30, all fully-vaccinated foreigner travellers would also be able to come to this country without having to quarantine, though proof of vaccination would be required.

All travellers not required to go into MIQ would still require:

  • a negative pre-departure test proof of being fully vaccinated;
  • a passenger declaration about travel history, a day 0/1 test on arrival;
  • a requirement to self-isolate for seven days, and
  • a final negative test before entering the community.

Government ‘still cautious’
Hipkins said: “It’s very encouraging that we as a country are now in a position to move towards greater normality. I do want to emphasise though that travel in 2022 won’t necessarily be exactly the same as it was in pre-2020 travel.”

The government defended its decision not to open the trans-Tasman bubble before Christmas.

Hipkins said the government needed to remain cautious about how much risk the country was exposed to in a short period of time.

He said loosening restrictions domestically and at the border need to be staggered.

215 new covid-19 cases
There were 215 new community cases of covid-19 today — 181 in Auckland, 18 in Waikato, three in Northland and 12 in the Bay of Plenty.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield this afternoon said 87 people were being treated in hospital, eight people of those in intensive care.

The Ministry of Health said 118 of today’s 215 new cases were yet to be linked.

There were 18,880 vaccine doses given yesterday — 6496 first doses and 12,384 second doses, meaning 92 percent of eligible people in New Zealand have had their first dose and 84 percent are now fully vaccinated.

Traffic-light system legislation
Legislation setting up the traffic light system — including mandating vaccinations for some workforces — has been pushed through Parliament in less than 24 hours.

Passed under urgency, the bill was opposed by the opposition National, Act and Te Paati Māori parties.

National called it secretive, divisive and unduly rushed. Act said the government had plenty of time to move it through the regular process involving greater scrutiny, and the Māori Party called it a “cruel law change” that would victimise vulnerable communities.

MPs also rejected a change to the traffic light system, which would have seen places of worship and funerals exempt from vaccine certificate requirements.

National’s Simeon Brown had put forward a proposed change to the bill.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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