New Zealand to reopen borders in stages but isolation rules to stay

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has finally unveiled her plan to reopen New Zealand’s borders with residents stranded overseas the first to be able to return.

New Zealanders stuck in Australia will be able to return home from February 27 while those in other parts of the world will have to wait until March 13.

The returning residents will still have to quarantine but will be allowed to isolate at home.

The borders will reopen from visa-waiver countries including Australia within the next six months.

“This stage is likely to begin when we have much larger case numbers than we have now,” Arden said.

“For planning, we anticipate this stage will begin no later than July. I want to place strong emphasis on this being the latest we expect this to begin.”

All other international visitors will be allowed to enter New Zealand from October.

Arden has been under increasing pressure to relax her border policy, one of the strictest in the world, after pregnant New Zealand journalist Charlotte Bellis was forced to turn to the Taliban for help after the New Zealand government refused her request to return home.

But Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA) says the announcement will not help revive New Zealand’s hard-hit events industry unless there is a radical change to isolation requirements.

“Currently $150 million worth of business events are at risk because of international border settings,” said BEIA chief executive Lisa Hopkins.

“The sooner the government can announce opening to Australian manuhiri without isolation, the sooner our sector can begin to recover.

“We do take some optimism from the government’s decision to continue to review these restrictions. However, given planning is required for business events, the sooner we know borders can open without isolation, the better.

“The reality is a business visitor will not isolate in a hotel for seven to 10 days if they are expected to attend a three-day conference. The sector will now be fielding cancellations and postponements from Australia.”