New Zealand will add a vaccine mandate for international travelers next month. But don’t pack your bags for Auckland quite yet; the country doesn’t plan to reopen its borders to most international travel until at least 2022.
Starting Nov. 1, New Zealand will require non-citizens to be fully vaccinated in order to enter the country. Children under 17, New Zealand citizens and people who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons are exempt.
Initially, the new rule will only apply to a limited number of travelers. Travel has remained severely limited in the country since March 2020, with those who aren’t residents or citizens needing a “critical purpose” to enter.
Most travelers will still need to complete a 14 day quarantine period upon arrival next month and show a negative coronavirus test within 72 hours of their first international flight.
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New Zealand COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a Sunday statement that most visitors are already vaccinated, but the mandate aims to “provide an extra layer of protection at the border.”
“Even a single case presents a risk,” Hipkins said. “However, high and wide-spread vaccination rates will mean more freedoms, fewer restrictions, and the day-to-day confidence that protection from the virus brings.
Air New Zealand also announced that starting February 2022, all passengers must be fully vaccinated.
“Mandating vaccination on our international flights will give both customers and employees the peace of mind that everyone onboard meets the same health requirements as they do,” Air New Zealand’s CEO Greg Foran said in a news release. “As with anything, there will be some that disagree. However, we know this is the right thing to do to protect our people, our customers and the wider New Zealand community.”
Entry requirements are set to ease next year as the country reopens its borders to “low risk” countries. The exact timing of the reopening is not clear, and New Zealand has yet to publish a list of countries it considers low risk.
“Our ultimate goal is to get to quarantine-free travel for all vaccinated travelers,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said earlier this month.
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Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz.