Self-isolation requirements removed; Step 2 brought forward

Fully vaccinated eligible travellers will no longer self-isolate

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 on Wednesday 2 March 2022. That means New Zealand citizens and other eligible travellers 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.

Caution has served us well during the past 2 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 2 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.

Requirements for travellers

Travellers will still be required to:

  • have a negative pre-departure test, and
  • undertake 2 rapid antigen tests (RATs) 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 RAT 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.

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 (traffic lights) in place.

To the nearly 1 million people who are due their booster, you are urged 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 7-day average for border cases at the weekend was 9.4, compared with a 7-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.

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. The Minister for the COVID-19 Response will have more to say on this in the coming weeks.