15 Feb 2022

Traveller self-isolation rules allow bubbles, require direct travel to accommodation

6:34 pm on 15 February 2022

Travellers to New Zealand will be able to self-isolate in a bubble with their family or friends, and will be able to leave isolation in specific circumstances, the government says.

Chris Hipkins

Chris Hipkins Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Travel to their accommodation must be direct with no stops elsewhere, masks must be worn until they reach their accommodation, and they would be asked to sanitise hands and physically distance as much as possible.

People picking travellers up from the airport would also be required to mask up.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins this morning revealed more of the rules for self-isolating travellers ahead of the planned border reopening, which will happen in stages from the end of this month.

He said those self-isolating would be allowed to form a bubble with family or friends when in isolation, but must "minimise contact with others as much as possible".

No other visitors would be allowed, and isolation would not be allowed in places with shared group facilities like hostels or backpackers.

Hipkins said travellers would be allowed to leave self-isolation in specific circumstances such as visiting terminally ill relatives, to access urgent healthcare or to attend court hearings.

In that situation they would be "encouraged to take a RAT if visiting a high-risk location such as a hospital or aged care facility and need to follow public health measures," he said.

Pre-approved groups like sports teams or performers may also be allowed to train or rehearse outside their isolation location.

The government had already signalled travellers would be required to return rapid antigen tests on arrival and on day five/six of their seven-day isolation period. They would be provided with three test kits on arrival, and required to send the results of the tests to officials.

Travellers would also be required to provide a pre-departure test and evidence of vaccination, and fill out a Traveller Declaration form with information including confirmation of where they would stay.

Accepted pre-departure tests would include PCR tests, or a supervised LAMP tests or rapid antigen test.

The changes kick in from 28 February, when the first stage of border reopening takes place allowing New Zealanders and eligible travellers - from Australia only - to enter the country without going into Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ).

"These precautions for entry have been updated in light of the latest information about Omicron and continue our approach of putting safety first, as we shift into new phases of our Omicron Response plan," Hipkins said.

"The self-isolation requirements will be kept under review, with a view to reducing them over time."

The five stages of border reopening:

  • 11.59pm 27 February: Self-isolation opens for New Zealanders and eligible travellers coming from Australia
  • 11.59pm 13 March: Open to New Zealanders and eligible travellers from the rest of the world; skilled workers earning at least 1.5x median wage; working holiday visas
  • 11.59pm 12 April: Offshore temporary visa holders who still meet visa requirements; 5000 international students; consideration of further class exemptions for critical workforces that do not meet the 1.5x median wage test
  • By July: Anyone from Australia; visa-waiver travel; a new Accredited Employer Work Visa opens and skilled worker exemption is phased out
  • In October: Border reopens to the rest of the world, all visa categories fully reopen

Unvaccinated travellers aged 17 and up would still be required to go into MIQ.

No decision yet on definition of 'fully vaccinated'

Hipkins told Checkpoint the systems have been established for self-isolating returnees to submit their rapid antigen test results.

"There will be an ability for people to upload them online. But we also have to recognise that not everyone's going to be able to do that, so there'll be systems available for those who aren't digitally connected."

Hipkins said government has not made a decision on the definition of 'fully vaccinated'. He said the priority was to get all eligible people to get their booster doses.

He said vaccine passes issued last year expire in June and that was likely to be when any decisions were made.

"If we still need passes beyond June, and if we decide that booster requirements are needed for people to renew their passes, then we'll give people plenty of notice of that.

"If we do still need to have vaccine passes beyond the expiry of the current one, it's likely that a booster requirement would be needed. Whether we still need them or not, your crystal ball is as good as mine on that."

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