The Government will quarantine all arrivals to New Zealand rather than only those who show symptoms of COVID-19, the Prime Minister has announced.
From midnight on Thursday, Jacinda Ardern said every New Zealander boarding a flight to return home will be required to undergo quarantine or managed isolation in an approved facility for a minimum of 14 days.
"The Government has gone harder earlier with border measures compared to other countries, but even one person slipping through the cracks and bringing the virus in can see an explosion in cases as we have observed with some of our bigger clusters," Ardern said.
She said the quarantining of returning New Zealanders will be a "mammoth" undertaking.
"For context, nearly 40,000 New Zealanders have returned home since the 20th of March, when we closed the border to foreign nationals. That is more than the all of the hotel rooms across the country that we could have properly housed people in."
She said there has always been urgency around making the border secure, but it simply could not have done it from the beginning, "but we are doing it now".
Ardern said the Government has seen major reductions in New Zealanders returning, with just 40 arrivals on Wednesday, down from 6500 since the beginning of the alert level 4 lockdown.
She said a network of up to 18 hotels will be used to implement the new quarantine policy, of which one to two will be specifically set aside for those under "strict" quarantine conditions.
Those who arrive in New Zealand with symptoms will be put into strict quarantine where they cannot leave their room, but those without symptoms will be able to leave their room for a walk.
The Prime Minister said there are currently around 1000 people in hotels.