(DailyExpertNews) — New Zealand has announced it will begin reopening to the world, signaling an end to nearly two years of strict border rules that have segregated families and locked out nearly all foreigners.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern outlined a five-step plan on Thursday that will allow fully vaccinated New Zealand citizens to travel from Australia later this month. They will be required to self-isolate on arrival, but they will not have to go into state-run quarantine facilities.
The government’s website states that “self-isolation at your home or suitable alternative accommodation may be”, so it is not yet known whether non-residents can use hotels, rented apartments or other similar accommodations for their own self-isolation purposes.
The announcement is a major shift for New Zealand, which imposed some of the world’s strictest border rules in a bid to shut out Covid-19.
To address the limited quarantine spots, New Zealand introduced a quarantine lottery system that allowed citizens to enter an online queue at set times in the hope of scoring spots.
That has left many New Zealanders struggling to get home – and some haven’t seen their loved ones for years.
Ardern said the pain of quarantine was “heartbreaking”.
“We are at a new stage in our Covid response,” Ardern said. “Covid as a disease has not hit many of us until now. But with Omicron’s transmissibility, we know we will experience the virus more directly. But the difference here is that we now have all the resources to prepare.”
New Zealand’s shift from a zero-covid approach has been signaled for months.
Photo of Jacinda Ardern by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images