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New Zealand to loosen quarantine restrictions for returning expats

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New Zealand to loosen quarantine restrictions for returning expats

Photo: Brendan O’Hagan/Bloomberg

New Zealand will today loosen quarantine restrictions for returning expats from two weeks to seven days.

An ongoing Delta outbreak since August has forced Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to abandon her once world-leading elimination strategy in Auckland—the outbreak’s core and New Zealand’s largest city. Elimination continues in the rest of the country where cases are minimal.

Nevertheless, expats stranded abroad argue the new measures are inadequate to satisfy the massive demand for pre-booked spots in quarantine hotels—over 26,000 routinely apply for 3,000 spots every month. Instead, expats seek self-isolation for fully vaccinated returnees.

Expect a strategy change in the coming weeks. Ardern is struggling to justify mandatory quarantines for fully vaccinated travellers while Auckland’s mostly unvaccinated COVID-positive residents largely self-isolate at home.

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In a bid to boost low rural vaccination rates, Ardern’s cabinet is considering an earlier-than-planned nationwide move into the new suppression strategy once Auckland hits its 90% vaccination targets by the end of November. If this happens, demand for hotel spots from COVID-positive residents unable to self-isolate at home will increase. Therefore, expect expats to be allowed to self-isolate, but their entry numbers will likely remain limited until border restrictions are lifted early next year.

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