New Zealand to keep borders partially closed for another five months

WELLINGTON New Zealand will keep its borders closed to most international travellers for a further five months, the government said yesterday, outlining a cautious easing of border curbs that have been in place since Covid-19 hit in March last year.

Fully vaccinated international travellers will be allowed to enter the country from April 30, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told a news conference. The travellers will have to self-isolate for seven days on arrival.

Vaccinated New Zealanders and resident visa holders in neighbouring Australia can travel to New Zealand from Jan 16, while vaccinated New Zealanders and resident visa holders from other countries will be allowed in from Feb 13.

"A phased approach to reconnecting with the world is the safest approach to ensure risk is carefully managed," Mr Hipkins said.

"This reduces any potential impacts on vulnerable communities and the New Zealand health system."

Travellers will no longer be required to stay at state quarantine facilities, he said, but other requirements will be put in place, including self-isolation, a negative pre-departure test, proof of being fully vaccinated, and a Covid-19 test on arrival.

Pressure has been mounting on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to reopen international borders ahead of the Christmas holidays so that expatriate New Zealanders could return home.

Air New Zealand said last week it had cancelled about 1,000 flights to Australia due to border uncertainty.

New Zealand has recorded just over 10,000 Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began, and 40 related deaths - far fewer than most comparable countries. - REUTERS