Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently announced that, if all things go well, a new border system based on low, medium and high entry paths into Aotearoa will come into effect from early 2022.
The plans for the new border system management in question and multiple entry paths were revealed by the Government last week, aiming to reconnect Aotearoa to the world in a manner that will not risk the steps and sacrifices the country has already made to combat Covid-19.
The Government is responding to the final conclusions of a report led by leading epidemiologist Professor Sir David Skegg, which details a four-phased approach that could be taken to gradually opening New Zealand’s borders to the international community.
The findings from the Skegg Report state that in order to have New Zealand cautiously reopen up to the rest of the world, a full rollout of the covid vaccine to the general population must be needed. The Government, following this document, stated that border restrictions and MIQ facilities will remain in place until said vaccine rollout is completed to ensure the safety of New Zealanders and ensure as much protection as possible against the virus.
Currently however, just over 20-25% of New Zealand is vaccinated against the virus. This is a comparatively low percentage to the rest of the world that has drawn significant criticism, most notably from the National and ACT parties. National Party Leader Judith Collins told Newshub that while the Government’s decision to keep the border closed for the time being is a “step in the right direction”, they needed to speed up and increase the country’s vaccine efforts. Collins deems a Level Four lockdown (currently in effect at this publish date) the only option available due to our low vaccinated population.
New Zealand’s low vaccination rate is something that the Government is well aware of. In accordance with the Skegg Report, efforts are being made to rapidly increase the rate of vaccination amongst the general population. Ardern stated that the Government would spend the remainder of 2021 ensuring that as many people as possible have at least their first dose of the vaccine, the wait time between first and second doses has been extended from three weeks to six. The Government has also announced that they will trial a home isolation, in which people would isolate at home, rather than at Managed Isolation Facilities, if they’ve been fully vaccinated.
Phases three and four of the Government’s plan according to the Skegg Report involve the eventual arrival of international travellers with the partial reopening of the border, and governmental responses according to their low, medium or high individual risks.
Vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries would be deemed low risk, and would eventually require no isolation. Medium-risk travellers would include vaccinated travellers from moderate-risk countries, and would require varying isolation requirements ranging from isolation at home to MIQ. High-risk individuals would be deemed as anyone unvaccinated, and/or from a high-risk country. These travellers would require testing at the border, fourteen days in managed isolation and continuous tests.
The ultimate goal of the Skegg Report, and the Government is to eventually enable quarantine-free travel for vaccinated travellers into a nation that has completed its vaccine rollout to the general population. Whether this is still viable, especially due to Aotearoa’s current Delta outbreak, remains to be seen.