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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: New Zealand plans to cautiously open its borders in phases

New Zealand coronavirus Air New Zealand tourism
Mark Baker/AP
FILE - In this April 6, 2020 file photo Air New Zealand planes sit idle on the tarmac at Christchurch Airport, New Zealand. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File)

This week, New Zealand joined the growing list of countries planning to reopen their borders. It’s a phased approach — and if you’re not a citizen, you shouldn’t make any travel plans just yet.

New Zealand’s borders have been effectively closed to most foreigners — and difficult at best for citizens returning to the country.

The tight border controls have included a controversial quarantine system.

That policy meant that every returning citizen had to spend time — usually 10 days — in a state-run quarantine facility at their own cost, followed by self-isolation at home.

But there have not been enough spaces in the quarantine facilities to meet demand, so New Zealand instituted a lottery system.

Returning New Zealanders will soon be able to quarantine at home for 10 days — with fully vaccinated citizens able to return from Australia in about three weeks.

By mid-March, fully-vaccinated New Zealanders returning from any country will be allowed to come home.

Several thousand international students will be welcomed in April.

Americans and others who can travel to New Zealand without a visa will be allowed in July.

All other visitors and students can come in October — as long as they’re fully vaccinated.

New Zealand says its quarantine procedures have been successful. It suffered only 53 deaths from COVID, and the Ministry of Health says 93% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.

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