An exemption to the mandatory two-week managed isolation period has been granted for two "small" groups of new arrivals, the Ministry of Health announced on Monday.
In its regular COVID-19 update, the ministry revealed a range of amendments to the air and maritime border requirements will come into effect this week. Several changes were made, effective immediately - including new exemptions to the mandatory two-week period in a managed isolation or quarantine (MIQ) facility upon arrival.
"Changes to the Air and Isolation & Quarantine Orders - via the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Air Border and Isolation and Quarantine) Amendment Order (No 2) 2020 - include exclusion from managed isolation for a small number of additional people, where the health risk is deemed very low," the ministry said on Monday.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson told Newshub the exclusion applies to a small number of people "deemed to be low-risk" - police escorts of extradited or deported persons, as well as arrivals from Antarctica - subject to risk assessment.
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield may also grant exemptions for emergency workers entering New Zealand.
"There is strong incentive for them to be excluded from managed isolation and quarantine facilities for social, economic or diplomatic reasons," the ministry spokesperson said.
"Provided that they follow the applicable key safety standards at all times while overseas, they are exempt from managed isolation."
These new arrivals are still required to self-isolate for at least 48 hours upon their return to New Zealand. They must also undergo a COVID-19 test and continue to self-isolate until they have returned a negative result.
Other changes to border orders, effective this week, include an amendment to the definition of 'aircrew' to include aircrew who are not working and are returning from an overseas leg, and mandating the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in specific high-risk scenarios on ports and ships.
"We are constantly adjusting our border settings to reflect new information, our knowledge of how the virus works and operational experience," the ministry said.
"We need to balance maintaining health requirements with minimising economic impact and operational efficiency. We also need to be cognisant of the impact on workers and travellers."
Anyone returning to New Zealand can apply for an exemption from managed isolation, however applications are approved in a very few circumstances. According to the MIQ website, most exemptions are granted for people to join unaccompanied minors, people in transit, or people whose medical needs require hospital-level care. People will still need to complete a minimum 14 days of isolation upon arrival.
People who are exempt from managed isolation include diplomatic and consular officials, any person arriving by air who is designated by Dr Bloomfield as critical to the COVID-19 response, and maritime crew and aircrew under specific conditions.