NZ set for border, quarantine revamp

NZ is exploring new border settings that could allow fully-vaccinated Kiwis to bypass quarantine.
NZ is exploring new border settings that could allow fully-vaccinated Kiwis to bypass quarantine.

New Zealand's overhauled border rules will be revealed next week, with the possibility Kiwis could skip quarantine before Christmas.

Much like Australia, NZ has mandated all international arrivals spend a fortnight in a quarantine hotel, known as MIQ.

More than 180,000 people have gone through the MIQ system since it began in April last year.

Now, as daily case counts threaten to push into triple-figures, the government is exploring new border settings that could allow fully-vaccinated Kiwis to bypass the system.

COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed on Wednesday the new rules would be out within a week, and new entry rules would be in force before year's end.

"You will see some changes to our MIQ settings this year ... it will be a progressive series of changes.," he said.

Asked directly whether separated families could be reunifying by Christmas, he said, "I don't want to raise or lower expectations either way".

The system is being revamped in the wake of Auckland's Delta outbreak.

COVID-19 was largely absent from Kiwi life for a year until August, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's elimination strategy was designed to keep it that way.

However, Auckland's Delta outbreak has proved a game-changer for the government's strategy with government turning to vaccination rather than a hard border as NZ's primary line of defence.

The government released a re-opening plan in August which had international arrivals self-isolating from the first quarter of 2022.

Ms Ardern said there was a willingness to vary up MIQ, including the long-awaited introduction of self-isolation.

"We are assessing whether or not we need to provide managed isolation (MIQ) for those cases, or whether or not we can safely isolate at home," she said.

The government will also need to reserve MIQ places for local Kiwis who catch COVID-19 and need to quarantine.

Australian Associated Press