The mandatory self-isolation period for all people arriving in New Zealand from mid-January will be monitored with a light touch, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.
Hipkins announced on Wednesday most fully vaccinated travellers into New Zealand will not need to go through managed isolation (MIQ) from early next year.
There are three key steps to the changes, the first being that fully vaccinated New Zealanders flying in from Australia will not need to stay in MIQ.
Later this will extend to other fully vaccinated New Zealanders returning home and finally fully vaccinated foreign travellers.
Travellers will be required to self-isolate for seven days.
They will also have to have negative pre-departure test, be fully vaccinated, sign a declaration of full travel history, be tested on arrival and at end of the self-isolation period.
Hipkins said they are working through how to police self-isolation but it would be a light-touch approach.
"Obviously with the number of people we're talking about, and we're talking about potentially going from a couple of thousand people a week to many thousands of people a day coming into the country. It's going to have to be a relatively light-touch monitoring regime."
He said the level of resource required to monitor intensively "just wouldn't be possible or sustainable".
"We are going to be relying on the goodwill and honesty of people coming into the country."
There's no robust way to monitor people in self-isolation, he said.
Hipkins said the staggered reopening of the border is to ensure the country doesn't have to flip flop around the different coloured traffic lights.
"There's a lesson to learn from those countries overseas who have tried to do too much at once when it comes to reconnecting. [It] often leads to a big surge in cases and it means that you have to go backwards.
"We don't want to be in that position."
The first of the changes come into effect in January. Hipkins said this is because the Government is already doing a number of things that will increase the risk of COVID-19 in the community.
"Next week Auckland will be opening up to much more business than it has before, with active COVID cases in the community and a couple of weeks later we're seeing the boundary around Auckland removed. Those two things significantly increase the risk of Covid-19 spreading in New Zealand and an increase in [the] case numbers already."
The decision to delay home isolation for New Zealanders in Australia until after Christmas is ripping families apart, Opposition parties have said.
No fully vaccinated traveller from Australia has tested positive for COVID-19 at the border for three months.
Hipkins said this is a relatively small number of travellers.
"If you look at the overall number of arrivals at the airport, which again is a relatively small number, we had about 50 positive cases amongst vaccinated people who have arrived at the airport."
There's no guarantee that as the volume of people increased there wouldn't be positive cases coming in from Australia, he said.
Comparing the Auckland outbreak to those in Sydney in Melbourne, Hipkins said we are seeing a much better response and lower case numbers in Auckland because of the city's high vaccination rate.
"We need the rest of the country to really up its game in the next few weeks to really get those rates up further across New Zealand."