New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Thursday that the border will remain shut for international travelers for the rest of the year, adding that she hopes for a cautious reopening in a phased manner starting after the New Year.
“We’re not in a position to fully reopen just yet,” Ardern said as she outlined new COVID-19 border measures. “When we move we will be careful and deliberate because we want to move with confidence and with as much certainty as is possible.”
The prime minister noted that she wants to avoid “rushing” the situation—claiming that countries where they found themselves in a better situation after sustained periods of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus cases falling, a rise in cases happened again after they relaxed restrictions and re-opened the border.
Ardern’s plan is that from the first quarter of next year, the country would begin allowing travelers to arrive on a carefully and managed basis.
Fully vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries would not be required to quarantine, while those who travel from medium-risk countries would need to complete some form of quarantine, she said. People arriving from high-risk countries, or who were unvaccinated, would need to stay 14 days in a quarantine hotel run by the military.
“Just like after 9/11, the border will never be the same after COVID,” Ardern said, referring to a sentiment by New Zealand epidemiologist David Skegg. “The point he [Skegg] was making was that things can change, but that doesn’t mean we can’t adapt to them in a way that eventually feels normal again.”
Starting in October, a new “pilot” trial will begin that will allow some business travelers to quarantine at home rather than in military-run hotels as a test of the new system the country has planned to introduce for medium-risk countries next year.
“This pilot will enable us to test the logistics of entry into New Zealand under a self-quarantine model, the ability to monitor or enforce compliance, and the management of COVID cases if they arise,” Ardern said.
She added that the ultimate goal of the country is to reach “quarantine-free travel for all vaccinated travelers.”
The nation of 5 million people has reported just 26 deaths since the pandemic began and there have been 2,913 cases of the CCP virus recorded.
On a global level, the island nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean is amongst the lowest infection and death rates with just 1 in 1,675 citizens to have had a confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the CCP virus, according to a government statement.
On Wednesday, New Zealand has designated Indonesia and Fiji as “high-risk” countries after a surge in CCP virus case numbers, while also placing limits on travel from the two nations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.