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12 August 2021

New Zealand plans to reopen borders early next year after stamping out coronavirus

12 August 2021

New Zealand, which has completely stamped out the coronavirus, plans to cautiously reopen its borders to international travellers early next year, its government said on Thursday.

Officials also said they would delay second shots of the Pfizer vaccine in order to speed up first shots to protect more people as the threat of the Delta variant grows.

New Zealand’s success in erasing the coronavirus has allowed life to return almost to normal. The South Pacific nation of five million people has reported just 26 deaths since the pandemic began.

That has been achieved in part by closing borders to those who are not residents or citizens.

But many question whether it is feasible for New Zealand to maintain a zero-tolerance approach to the virus once international travel resumes.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government planned to follow the advice of experts and maintain the elimination strategy.

“While the pandemic continues to rage overseas, and the virus continues to change and mutate, the best thing we can do is lock in the gains achieved to date while keeping our options open,” she said.

Ms Ardern said the borders would not reopen until after New Zealand’s vaccine rollout was completed at the end of the year. The rollout has been much slower than in most developed nations, although it is beginning to accelerate.

The prime minister said that from the first quarter of next year, the country would begin allowing travellers to arrive on a carefully managed basis.

Fully vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries would not be required to quarantine, she said. Those arriving from medium-risk countries would need to complete some form of quarantine. And those arriving from high-risk countries, or who were unvaccinated, would need to stay 14 days in a quarantine hotel run by the military, Ms Ardern said.

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