Jacinda Ardern reveals EXACT date when Kiwis can return from Australia

Jacinda Ardern reveals the EXACT dates when Kiwis can return home and when Aussies can holiday across the ditch – as she finally loosens restrictions on fortress New Zealand

  • New Zealand confirmed a new re-opening plan as country opens to rest of world
  • Kiwis stuck overseas have so far had to use NZ’s lottery-style quarantine system 
  • From February 27 fully-vaccinated Kiwis in Australia can self-isolate on arrival 
  • Kiwis in the rest of the world can return without hotel quarantine from March 13

New Zealand will begin to welcome back travellers this month after more than two years of being shut off to the rest of the world. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday announced New Zealand’s new five-stage re-opening plan, with the first step allowing Kiwis in Australia to return home without going into hotel quarantine from February 27. 

Fully-vaccinated New Zealanders based in Australia will be sidestep her lottery-style quarantine system and will be permitted to self-isolate for 10 days instead.  

That self-isolation period will drop to seven days when New Zealand enters phase two of its Omicron response strategy. 

Kiwis in the rest of the world – which includes citizens and permanent residents – will be welcomed home under similar conditions from March 13. 

Non-citizens with visas can skip managed quarantine from April, although no exact date has been set yet.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday announced fully vaccinated Kiwis based in Australia will be allowed to sidestep quarantine

Pedestrians wait outside a cafe in Auckland. Fully-vaccinated Kiwis based in Australia will be allowed to sidestep New Zealand’s lottery-style quarantine system

NEW ZEALAND’S FIVE-STAGE RE-OPENING PLAN 

February 27 –  New Zealanders in Australia can sidestep the hotel quarantine system and self-isolate for 10 days instead.

That self-isolation period will drop to seven days when New Zealand enters phase two of its Omicron response strategy.

March 13 –  Kiwis in the rest of the world – which includes citizens and permanent residents – can return home under similar conditions

April – Non-citizens with visas can fly home and self-isolate on arrival

July – Non-citizen travellers from visa-waiver countries – such as Australia and the UK – can travel to New Zealand 

October –  New Zealand expects to open up to the rest of the world

An exact timeline for stages three and four will be confirmed by the end of February

Non-citizen travellers from visa-waiver countries – such as Australia and the UK – can travel to New Zealand no later than July. 

‘I want to place strong emphasis on this being the latest we expect this to begin,’ Ms Ardern said.

‘There is a high likelihood of this date coming forward as we progress through the next stage of the pandemic.’ 

She said she fully expected to open the country up to the rest of the world from October. 

A more detailed timeline for stages four and five will be confirmed by the end of February.

Ms Ardern admitted managed isolation quarantine (MIQ) had caused pain for thousands of New Zealanders.

‘There is no question, that for New Zealand, it has been one of the hardest parts of the pandemic,’ she said.

‘But the reason that it is right up there as one of the toughest things we have experienced, is in part because large-scale loss of life is not.

‘The anguish of MIQ has been real, and heartbreaking. But the choice to use it, undeniably saved lives.’ 

NZ has operated a tough border policy since March 2020 in a hardline effort to protect its citizens from Covid.

Pictured is a managed isolation facility in Christchurch. There have been growing calls to relax the controversial quarantine system

The strategy eliminated the virus in the first year of the pandemic and then minimised its impact through 2021 – before delaying the arrival of the Delta and Omicron variants.

There were 196 confirmed Covid cases in New Zealand on Wednesday; Australia recorded 40,039 infections on the same day.

However, there have been growing calls to relax quarantine provisions – known locally as MIQ – as Kiwis seek easier pathways in and out of the country. 

Thursday’s border changes fall short of of the freedom of movement offered last year under the trans-Tasman bubble.

That arrangement, which endured several pauses during its short-lived run from April to July last year, allowed travellers to travel freely between Australia and NZ. 

The re-opening plans comes as a group of New Zealanders locked out of their own country for two years sue Ms Ardern’s government – claiming her impossible hotel quarantine program has breached their human rights.

Kiwis who want to return home after the country’s border was slammed shut to keep out Covid back in March 2020 have to apply for a place in Managed Isolation and Quarantine – with the small amount of places allocated through a lottery system. 

New Zealand has implemented a hard border against Australia and banned quarantine-free travel amid a surge in Omicron cases in across the Tasman (pictured: NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern)

If you don’t secure a place through the randomised lottery, you cannot fly to New Zealand. 

Despite New Zealanders being 90 per cent double-vaccinated and having just eight Covid cases in hospital, the MIQ system has been tightened even further – with available spots in quarantine reduced to zero amid the Omicron wave.  

Lawyer and Grounded Kiwis founder Alexandra Birt said the system needs to be tested and the group have raised more than $180,000 in legal costs to sue the government. 

‘We are alleging the way they have operated the system amounts to a breach of the bill of rights’, Ms Birt told A Current Affair. 

Ms Birt said she receives messages daily from Kiwis who are desperate to return home – some from pensioners who had gone on holiday to Australia and were now stuck surviving on savings, others who moved everything over only to be locked out, or those who want to visit sick family, or new grandchildren – and each denied entry. 

One such stranded couple is retiree Ashley Smith and his wife who have been stuck in a tiny caravan in Western Australia unable to secure a rare place in hotel quarantine.

Alexandra Birt founded Grounded Kiwis, which raised funds to sue the NZ government over the implementation of the MIQ system (pictured) 

About 4,500 room places were being allocated each week with Kiwis having to log on to a webpage as soon as they were released in a ‘first-in, first-served’ competition.

‘I’ve had to get up at 4am so I could enter the lottery. Even in my own mind, I knew I would fail,’ he said.

With each try he would say to himself: ‘This is it, let the hunger games begin’.

But even those 4,500 rooms a week have been suspended amid Omicron with just one round of places allocated this year and no word on when the next round will resume. 

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