New Zealand to introduce home quarantine

A phased easing of border restrictions will favour fully-vaccinated people arriving from overseas.

By Bloomberg News, October 28 2021
New Zealand to introduce home quarantine

New Zealand will begin scaling back one of its key Covid-19 defenses by easing border restrictions for fully vaccinated people arriving from overseas.

The amount of time travelers will have to spend in government-run hotel quarantine facilities will be halved to 7 from 14 days from November 14, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a news conference in Wellington on Thursday.

Home isolation will be introduced in the first quarter of 2022, he said.

The managed isolation and quarantine system (MIQ) has been the key plank of New Zealand’s approach to keeping the virus out of the country since it was introduced April 2020.

But the arrival of the delta variant in August this year and the government’s move away from trying to eliminate community spread has undermined the approach.

“When MIQ was introduced we didn’t have the vaccine so every arrival posed a high level of risk,” Hipkins said. “With most people returning now fully vaccinated the risk profile of international arrivals has changed so it is time to start changing our MIQ settings.”

The growing number of cases in the community has forced the government to allow infected people to isolate at home, but fully vaccinated travelers who have tested negative are still required to quarantine.

Adding to the pressure on the government has been a vocal group comprised of thousands of New Zealanders living overseas who have been unable to secure the elusive spots in MIQ facilities and return home.

Last month, the government introduced a “virtual lobby” system, in which people join an online queue for a chance to snag a room. The first lobby saw 31,800 people scramble for just 3,200 rooms.

Under the new system, travelers will be tested three times before being released on day 7 from quarantine. They will then have to self-isolate at home for around three days.

Hipkins said the changes would free up more than 1,500 MIQ rooms a month, some of which would be available to those wishing to return from overseas.

“The second stage of our plan will see New Zealand moving towards having more vaccinated people able to self-isolate at home instead of in MIQ,” he said.

“This option will be made available to increasing numbers of fully vaccinated travelers in the first quarter of 2022.”

This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here

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