New Zealand's reopening plan: COVID-19 vaccine rollout brought forward, self-isolation trial for vaccinated returning Kiwis, no MIQ for 'low-risk' travellers

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a pathway out of New Zealand's border closures, beginning in 2022.

On Thursday, Ardern announced Aotearoa will soften its border restrictions next year based on an individual risk-based model for travellers.

This will centre on putting new arrivals in three categories - low-risk, medium-risk and high-risk.

"Which pathway a traveller takes will be based on the risk associated with where they are coming from and their vaccination status," Ardern said.

Low-risk travellers will be allowed in without quarantine - they must be fully vaccinated and coming from low-risk countries. These countries have not yet been named.

Medium-risk travellers would be subject to either self-isolation or slightly reduced managed isolation and quarantine, as they would be arriving from medium-risk countries.

In preparation for this category, the Government will be running a self-isolation pilot programme in the coming months to test the safety of this pathway.

"Businesses and organisations that need to send staff overseas will be invited to express interest in participating in the pilot which will run between October and December 2021."

High-risk travellers - people from high-risk countries - will be subject to the same isolation procedures that are currently in place: Fourteen days in managed isolation, and mandatory testing, even if they are fully vaccinated.

Ardern says the remainder of 2021 will be dedicated to setting up this new system - and there's a lot of work to be done.

"This work includes ongoing work on the development of a traveller health declaration system, investigating new testing technology for rapid testing on arrival at airports and reliable pre-departure testing as well as piloting self-isolation arrangements for some New Zealanders and strengthening other public health measures such as contact tracing."


The other focus will be speeding up the vaccination process, by bringing forward the eligibility dates for the remaining groups.

From August 13 people aged 50+ will be eligible, 40+  will be open on August 18 and 30+ will be open on August 25.

From September 1, all eligible ages will be able to get vaccinated.

As well as shifting all dates forward, Ardern announced from Thursday there will be a six-week period between doses of vaccine, meaning more people can get their first dose quicker and be at least partially vaccinated by the end of the year.

"Those who work at our border, have underlying health conditions or wish to be fully vaccinated sooner can still get their second dose after three weeks."

Despite all that needs to be done before the border restrictions can soften, Ardern says New Zealand is in a strong position and elimination is still our strategy.

"We don't have COVID in the community and our economy is more open than most."

She added opening the borders will protect the gains New Zealand has won and reconnect our economy with the rest of the world.