New Zealand is getting ready to reopen to the world with a new welcome date for tourists

Portrait of a young woman in a car looking at a map for directions.
New Zealand is getting ready to reopen to the world in 2022 ©Getty Images

One of the last countries to keep its borders shut to tourists is finally ready to lay out a plan to reopen them. Today, New Zealand announced that it will welcome foreign visitors back next April. But first, it will make it easier for New Zealanders living abroad to travel home in the early months of 2022.

New Zealand's borders have been sealed shut since March 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19 and, lately, to ramp up a vaccination drive that got off to a sluggish start. But as of today, the island nation of 5 million residents has fully vaccinated almost 72% of its population and is eyeing a return to travel but taking a cautious approach to prevent future flare-ups.

Under the plan, fully vaccinated New Zealanders living in neighboring Australia will be able to return home in January 2022 without staying in mandatory hotel quarantine, the country's COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. Vaccinated New Zealanders living outside the country can return for a visit from February 13. Then, the doors will open for fully vaccinated visitors from the rest of the world on April 30.

New Regent Street in the centre of Christchurch, with outdoor cafes and speciality shops, and the tram route running through it.
New Zealand will take a phased approach to reopening borders ©Getty Images

"A phased approach to reconnecting with the world is the safest approach to ensure risk is carefully managed. This reduces any potential impacts on vulnerable communities and the New Zealand health system," Hipkins said.  "There continues to be a global pandemic with cases surging in Europe and other parts of the world, so we do need to be very careful when reopening the border."

Naturally, getting there won't be as straightforward as packing your bags and hopping on a plane. Arrivals will need to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test, show proof of vaccination, complete a traveler declaration form, and take another test upon arrival.

Quarantine won't be done away with completely for vaccinated people under the new plan either, but it will get easier. People are required to self-isolate for seven days at home or at their accommodation and take a negative test on the seventh day. Further details on how that self-isolation system will be implemented and monitored will be released in December. 

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New Zealand has among the strictest COVID-19 border measures in the world. The country locked its doors in March 2020 and put returning citizens into mandatory quarantine. In addition to strict lockdowns, New Zealand implemented a widespread testing and contact tracing program and took advantage of its remote geography to pursue a zero-COVID approach that evolved as the pandemic shifted gears. Travel returned cautiously in the form of a travel bubble with Australia which eventually closed this summer due to outbreaks there.

This article was first published on August 12, 2021 and updated on November 24, 2021

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