Most fully-vaccinated travellers into New Zealand will not need to go through managed isolation from early next year.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield revealed the latest at today's Covid-19 briefing.
Watch the announcement here:
Hipkins said fully vaccinated New Zealanders will be able to travel from Australia without having to quarantine from 16 January. Foreign nationals follow from April onwards.
A mandatory seven day self-isolation period will still be in place for people not required to enter MIQ.
From 11.59pm on 16 January 2022, fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible travellers can travel to New Zealand from Australia without staying in managed isolation or quarantine, Hipkins says.
From 11.59pm on 13 February, fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible travellers can travel to New Zealand from all other countries.
From 30 April, fully vaccinated foreign travellers can travel to New Zealand. This will happen in a staged way, Hipkins said.
This will be one of the final steps in opening, he said.
Hipkins said New Zealand was now in a position to start moving back to normality, with a reminder that travel in 2022 will still be different.
Travellers will have to have negative pre-departure test, be fully vaccinated, a declaration of full travel history, test on arrival and at end of self-isolation period.
He said the announcement gives families, businesses, airports and others the time to prepare.
"It's very encouraging that we as a country are now in a position to move towards greater normality. I do want to emphasise though that travel in 2022 won't necessarily be exactly the same as it was in pre-2020 travel."
He acknowledged the differences in opinion on the subject, but said the government was following the expert advice which showed the border is one of the highest-risk areas.
"A phased approach to reconnecting with the world is the safest approach to ensure that risk is carefully managed and it reduces the potential impacts on vulnerable communities and the New Zealand health system."
The three steps constituted a new medium-risk pathway, he said.
Those who do not meet the requirements of this pathway but can enter New Zealand will still enter MIQ on arrival under the new regime of seven days managed isolation followed by three days self-isolation.
These are people who do not meet the vaccination requirement, including unvaccinated New Zealand citizens, as well as people coming from high-risk countries.
The announcements will free up more space in MIQ, which the government intends to use, he said.
Hipkins said they expected people to stay in their bubbles for the seven day isolation period.
"Other people in the household will be moving around. There's a lot more freedom involved in self-isolation than there is with being in MIQ."
He said they were being upfront that it was not a low-risk pathway.
"There will be more cases coming across the border, even amongst people who have been vaccinated.
"Rapid antigen testing is going to increasingly play a more prominent role for our surveillance testing procedures," Hipkins said.
He said the world will use rapid antigen tests more widely, as New Zealand will.
Hipkins also revealed the 'very high-risk' classification for Indonesia, Fiji, India, Pakistan and Brazil will be removed early next month.
Travellers from these countries can enter New Zealand on the same basis as travellers from most other countries, Hipkins said.
Papua New Guinea will continue to be classified as high-risk so only New Zealand citizens and their dependants can travel directly to NZ from PNG. All travellers from PNG who aren't citizens must spent 14 days in a non-very high risk country before coming here and humanitarian exemptions are still available.
"As we move in 2022, we know that the pandemic is not over and it's not going to suddenly end and we only need to look at Europe to know that the path out of the pandemic is not a straight-forward one.
"Today's announcement does not mean that MIQ as a system is not going to end any time soon. MIQ is intended to be a temporary measure and its current scale and the way it operates has served us incredibly well."
The traffic light system will come into effect for the whole country at 11.59pm Thursday 2 December.