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Fully vaccinated travellers finally able to enter New Zealand from next year without quarantine

Fully vaccinated travellers finally able to enter New Zealand from next year without quarantine

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Analysis by Sharon Marris, news reporter and New Zealander in the UK

New Zealand has been praised by experts around the world for its tough stance on COVID-19 – it locked down tough and early when the seriousness of the virus became known last year.

But when it closed its international borders, it locked many thousands of overseas-based Kiwis out of their own country.

In recent months, entry for citizens (and a very narrow group of exceptions) has been largely limited by the number of spaces in hotel isolation (Managed Isolation and Quarantine). Getting a space currently means entering a lottery, where tens of thousands of New Zealanders fight for what is usually between 3,000 and 4,000 spots.

It is possible to get an emergency space but the bar is set extremely high – New Zealanders have been stranded overseas with expired visas, some have missed saying goodbye to dying relatives, and a growing number are struggling with the mental effects of what it means to be effectively shut out of one’s country.

Today’s announcement will be met with a huge amount of relief but there will also be frustration that the changes are still so far away.

For months, the number of cases detected among returning New Zealanders has been in single figures – with pre-departure tests and some flights also now requiring vaccination, most of the risk is eliminated before boarding the plane.

The number of cases being picked up among returning New Zealanders is far outstripped by those emerging daily in Auckland.

New Zealanders who travel or live overseas have always felt safe in the knowledge that our passports mean we can go home if things turn sour. And we’re lucky that home is one of the safest and most beautiful places in the world.

New Zealand’s border policies during the pandemic, have shattered that. New Zealanders overseas will welcome the changes, but I don’t think many of us will ever look at our passports in the same way again.

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