New Zealand will allow fully vaccinated tourists to enter the country without MIQ earlier than planned.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would make an announcement on Wednesday regarding an accelerated reopening schedule.
According to the initial schedule, fully vaccinated travelers from Australia and visa-exempt countries could enter without having to stay at MIQ from July. Then the border would be fully reopened to visitors from anywhere in the world from October.
“We’re looking to move them forward because we think we can do it safely,” Ardern said.
“The moment we left the Omicron summit was when the experts said it would be possible to reopen the borders more widely.”
Ardern said the government was considering a range of options, including the timing of reopening to accommodate peaks in demand.
“[We’re] act as quickly as possible to provide that certainty to the tourism industry. »
She added that the more contagious BA.2 subvariant of Omicron would not impact those plans as it was already circulating in the community.
Professor Michael Plank of Te Pūnaha Matatini told Breakfast on Monday morning once Omicron’s peak passed: “I think at that point what happens on the border starts to become much less important.”
“Potentially we can look at moving that October date forward much, much earlier and start welcoming tourists back much sooner than that.
“Once we get past the peak, there will likely still be several thousand cases in the community per day for some time to come and so adding a few hundred cases even from the border won’t make a huge difference.” Plank said.
ACT and National were among those who said MIQ should end immediately and the government should loosen borders more quickly. They said the growing outbreak of Omicron meant people were more likely to catch Covid-19 in the community than from travellers.
Borders had already been relaxed for vaccinated New Zealanders returning from Australia. They can now ignore the MIQ and isolate themselves upon arrival instead.
Most New Zealand MIQ facilities will be closed by the end of June.