Self-isolation requirements removed; Step 2 brought forward

The Government is removing the self-isolation requirements for vaccinated travellers to New Zealand and enabling Kiwis to come here from the rest of the world sooner, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced today.

Advice from the Strategic COVID-19 Public Health Advisory Group and the Director General of Health is that it is now appropriate to drop the requirement for self-isolation for fully vaccinated travellers after they arrive in New Zealand.

“Cabinet has agreed to lift all self-isolation requirements for vaccinated travellers entering New Zealand from 11:59pm, Wednesday 2 March. That means that all Kiwis coming home and tourists entering the country will be able to step off the plane and immediately connect with family and friends and enjoy all New Zealand has to offer,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Travellers will still be required to have a negative pre-departure test, and undertake two rapid antigen tests on arrival and at day 5/6. If anyone returns a positive result they will be required to report it and isolate for the same period as a community case.

“Returnees are also asked to follow up their positive rapid antigen test with a PCR test, so that we can run whole genome sequencing and determine the variant. This will ensure that we can still keep tabs on any emerging variants and isolate cases as needed.

“Caution has served us well during the past two years and as we continue to move through the Omicron outbreak and peak, we will continue to remove restrictions when advised it is safe to do so – as we always said we would.

“Now that we are two years into the COVID-19 pandemic the risk has shifted from our border, to our community. As the pandemic evolves, we are too. Getting tested is now quicker and easier, requirements for isolation have been simplified to those who share a household, and care in the community is focused towards those most in need of support.”

Step 2 brought forward 

The Government has also confirmed it will bring forward Step 2 so that New Zealanders from the rest of the world can return from midnight this Friday 4 March. Cabinet will review the timings of the remaining steps in the coming weeks.

“We are able to take these decisions because we have a highly vaccinated population and good public health restrictions through the COVID-19 Protection Framework in place,” Chris Hipkins said.

“To the nearly 1 million people who are due their booster, I urge you to get it today. The fact remains that if you are unvaccinated you are much more likely to end up in hospital with COVID-19 than if you are vaccinated and boosted.

“As we progressively open, all vaccinated travellers who test negative for COVID-19 will be able to immediately enjoy New Zealand and all it has to offer. This will be a shot in the arm for our tourism sector, our regional economies and our overall economic recovery from COVID-19.

“Professor Sir David Skegg’s advisory group acknowledges that without self-isolation there will be more travellers and therefore cases entering the community. However, as outlined in the advice these numbers will remain a very small proportion of overall cases for the foreseeable future.

Border cases have been decreasing over the past month, both in number and as a proportion of arriving travellers. The seven-day average for border cases at the weekend was 9.4, compared with a seven-day average of around 6,700 for cases in the community.

“The border and MIQ workforce have done a phenomenal job at first keeping COVID-19 out of New Zealand and then slowing the spread once it arrived. Because of this mahi, New Zealand has one of the lowest number of deaths from COVID-19 in the world,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Managed isolation will remain for unvaccinated New Zealanders, refugees and some community cases as needed. But it does mean we will begin to scale back some of our managed isolation capacity. I will have more to say on this in the coming weeks.”