Border reopening plan: companies “biting the brakes” but want more details
The country must scrap several days of self-isolation for fully vaccinated arrivals by the middle of the year, a government trade adviser has said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has set the timetable for “reconnecting New Zealand to the world” when fully vaccinated returnees and visitors can bypass the MIQ and self-isolate instead.
New Zealanders and other eligible travelers from Australia will be the first to meet the new criteria, starting February 27.
It’s July for Australian business travelers and tourists and not until October for other international visitors.
At first, self-isolation will last 10 days – similar to close contacts of Omicron cases, but this will eventually drop to seven.
The government’s trade adviser on Covid-19, Rob Fyfe, welcomed the plan, saying businesses will be relieved as the country enters “very difficult economic times”.
“Companies will be chomping at the bit to get out and try to secure both their customers and supply chains have also been incredibly challenged.
“So to meet with both suppliers and customers, to make sure that the economy starts to be challenged, that we’re in the best possible position to compete on the world stage, [it’s] incredibly important.”
When asked how well the companies’ wish list had been met, he said they still needed “more speed” and “more certainty”.
While today’s announcement offered certainty for the first three stages, there wasn’t as much for stages four and five, he said. Checkpoint.
“If you’re taking inbound visitors, the key is actually moving away from self-isolation or home isolation because that becomes a huge barrier. We don’t know when that will happen. We don’t We don’t have any visibility on this yet.”
Fyfe said he would like to see the country move from seven days of self-isolation to a setting where a traveler is tested before departure and upon arrival, then waits at home for a PCR result.
“And if it comes back negative, you’re treated the same as everyone else and hopefully we can be in that position by the middle of the year. That would be my ambition.
“It would really be embraced, especially by the inbound tourism industries and the visitor industries.
“So I would love for that to happen but I understand why we can’t make that decision today when we’re facing an Omicron wave that’s going to hit New Zealand, but I’m hoping long before we come to June that there is serious consideration for this possibility.”
He still hoped the government would make it easier for Australians to skip home isolation for the winter ski season to help revitalize areas like Queenstown.
“[Ardern] didn’t say much about removing self-isolation or home isolation requirements. So she was a mom about it, but I think the world is going down that road. We’re going to be an outlier if we don’t move into that position, say around the middle of the year.”
He agreed that with record unemployment and businesses looking for workers, the provision allowing some skilled workers to enter the country was important.
Workers were needed across the economy and some businesses may be frustrated with the rate at which foreign workers are allowed in.
“But I accept that it has to progress gradually. You can’t just open the floodgates all at once and accept the risk to the healthcare system,” Fyfe said.
Asked about his confidence that the government will stick to its timetable and not delay it in the face of a large number of Omicron cases, he said the government understands the consequences of “stop start, on off”.
“I think the government is very determined that we are past the use phase of the lockdown unless we are in absolute crisis. I think the same is true once we enter this framework border – they won’t back down unless there’s a real health crisis that requires it and based on Omicron and what I see in the world I don’t think it’s a high risk for us .”
Self-isolation will be a deterrent – Patron of Tourism NZ
The plan also offers some relief for tourism providers, however, Tourism New Zealand chief executive Rene de Monchy agreed the self-isolation requirements would be a deterrent to many visitors.
Those who had family and friends here would not find that to be a barrier and periods of home isolation would gradually reduce, making it more attractive to international visitors, he said.
October is a key month for the country as it heads into the peak summer period.
This meant winter would still be tough for many local tourism providers and it would be vital to continue to encourage New Zealanders to visit their own backyards.
Tourism NZ is always promoting the country abroad so people “can dream for that future trip” which can take months or years to plan.
“We need people to dream about it now so they can convert it into what will more likely be [a visit] later in the year as we head into those summer months.”
When asked if young backpackers would still find Aotearoa an attractive destination, he replied that they would and because they came longer, the self-isolation period might not be so daunting for them. them.
De Monchy said the focus for attracting international travelers was always “high quality visitors”, and beyond the levels of spend and value they can bring and what time of year they would like to visit.
A ski holiday with isolation requirements would be a challenge, but if the government changed its isolation requirements, Australians would be able to respond quickly to any opportunities.