New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that New Zealand will keep its borders closed for the rest of the year. Simply having a visa (such as the NZeTA) is not sufficient to travel to the country, even if the traveller has been fully vaccinated.
National security first
In a recent speech, Prime Minister Ardern said that the country is currently not in a position to reopen fully. Among other things, Ardern pointed to the new mutations of the virus that continue to emerge, which could potentially lead to new large-scale outbreaks. For example, Vietnam, a country that has long had very low infection rates and deaths, is currently struggling to get the delta variant of the virus under control, resulting in thousands of new daily infections. Ardern absolutely wants to avoid such a scenario in New Zealand, and is therefore keeping its borders closed until early 2022.
According to the New Zealand government, the borders cannot be opened until all residents of the country have been fully vaccinated. The New Zealand vaccination programme is currently moving relatively slowly. As of August 2021, only 19.4% of the population has been fully vaccinated. The government had previously announced that it would postpone second vaccinations with the Pfizer vaccine for various groups so that more people could receive their first shot.
New Zealand’s textbook approach to Covid-19
For many, New Zealand is the country that has handled the coronavirus pandemic best. Official figures show that New Zealand has had only 26 deaths from the coronavirus since the outbreak of the pandemic. By comparison, the UK has so far officially recorded 135,000 deaths from COVID-19. The governmentʼs decision to keep the borders closed for the rest of the year therefore comes as a surprise to some. Countries like Canada (27,000 deaths) have already announced that they will open their borders to fully vaccinated foreign tourists this year. European countries are also opening their borders to foreign tourists. New Zealand, however, does not want to take any risk. Until its entire population has been vaccinated, the borders will remain closed.
Recently, New Zealand also lifted the "travel bubble" with Australia because of the rapidly increasing number of infections in the neighbouring country. Under this arrangement, Australian travellers could travel to New Zealand without having to quarantine on arrival.
Travelling to New Zealand: exceptions and visa
Despite the current measures, it is still possible to apply for a tourist visa, or NZeTA (New Zealand electronic Travel Authority). The NZeTA visa is valid for two years, which means that you can apply for a visa applied now and use it for a trip next year. The cost of the NZeTA visa is £49.95. This price includes the mandatory tourist tax, the "International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy" (IVL).
Prime Minister Ardern has announced that if the borders do open in the first few months of 2022, travellers will be vetted on an individual basis. In any case, travellers must be fully vaccinated. The country of departure will also be taken into consideration in order to decide whether the traveller must undergo quarantine after arrival.
Currently, it is only possible to travel to New Zealand in exceptional cases. These include people with essential professions, immediate family members of New Zealand residents and people with an urgent humanitarian need (for example to attend a funeral). These travellers must apply for a special permit ("Border Exception"). An NZeTA visa cannot be used for this type of travel.