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Source: New Zealand Labour Party

With a highly vaccinated and soon to be highly boosted population, it’s time to shift gears in our COVID response to focus on reconnection and recovery. Over the coming three months, all New Zealanders and key visa holders will be able to start entering the country without going into MIQ, helping to secure our economic recovery and address worker shortages. 

Over the past two years, our COVID response has saved lives and livelihoods, leaving us with some of the lowest rates of hospitalisations and deaths in the OECD. This response has also delivered a stronger-than-expected economic performance, with historically low unemployment and a robust GDP. MIQ has been a crucial part of our strategy. And, for many people in and outside Aotearoa, it has also been one of the most challenging elements of the pandemic.

MIQ meant not everyone could come home when they wanted, but it has also meant COVID couldn’t come in when it wanted, either. It’s given us time to become one of the most highly vaccinated countries in the world and, now, to get our population boosted. More than 94% of our over 18s are fully vaccinated and 92% will be eligible for a booster by the end of February.

With our community so well protected, we can now turn to reconnection. Families and friends need to reunite. Our businesses need skills to grow. Exporters need to travel to make new connections.

So, in five steps, we will move forward with our plan to reconnect New Zealand to the world. This phased approach to reopening our border will reduce the risk of a surge of cases, while prioritising the return of New Zealanders and the much needed entry of skilled workers.

From 11:59pm on Sunday 27 February, fully vaccinated Kiwis and other currently eligible travellers from Australia will be able to travel to New Zealand and, instead of going into MIQ, will be able to self-isolate.

From 11:59 pm on Sunday 13 March, fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other currently eligible travellers from the rest of the world will also be able to travel into New Zealand without going through MIQ.

There will be an expanded border exception for critical workers, skilled workers earning at least 1.5 times the median wage, and highly skilled workers’ family members. Our Working Holiday Schemes will also reopen in stages from this date.

From 11:59pm on Tuesday 12 April, MIQ-free travel will open for up to 5,000 international students and temporary work visa holders who still meet relevant visa requirements.

By July 2022 at the latest, these border settings will extend to anyone from Australia, as well as all other visitors and business travellers who can normally enter New Zealand without a visa. This date is likely to come forward as we progress through the next stage of the pandemic.

The Accredited Employer Work Visa will also open from July, meaning the skilled and health worker border exception can be phased out.

From October 2022, all other visitors and students who require a visa to enter New Zealand will be eligible for MIQ-free travel, with normal visa processing resuming.

Travellers will be asked to follow broadly the same self-isolation requirements we have in New Zealand for close contacts. That means a current requirement of 10 days, which will later drop to 7 days, as we move into Phase 2 of our pandemic response.

All arrivals will be given rapid antigen tests to take home and use soon after their arrival and then on day 5 or 6 of their self-isolation period, to enable us to identify cases. Meanwhile, MIQ will remain in place for unvaccinated travellers.

These safeguards – alongside our highly vaccinated and boosted population and the protections of the traffic light system – will allow whānau to reunite and workers to fill key skill gaps, while protecting our people and our health system.

Our economy has shown remarkable resilience through COVID, and this reconnecting plan will help us to build on that solid foundation, to deliver prosperity and security to all New Zealanders. It will support our hard-working exporters and businesses across the country, by bringing in new skills, filling shortages, and building new connections.

We’re securing a recovery that will leave New Zealand stronger than it was before the pandemic, by investing in infrastructure, rebuilding our health system and our schools, pivoting to renewable energy, and upskilling Kiwis in record numbers to ensure we have the workforce we need for the future.

Our plan to reconnect New Zealanders with the world will accelerate this recovery, enabling us to live with COVID-19 but not be overwhelmed by it. We are in a new phase of our pandemic response – moving forward together, safely.

Read more about our work to reduce the risk of Omicron here. For more information about our COVID response and life at Red, visit Unite Against COVID-19.