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Health and Aged Care New Zealand

NZ sets out new framework against Delta variant

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NZ sets out new framework against the COVID-19 Delta variant

Due to the rising threat of the COVID-19 Delta variant, the New Zealand Government has set up a new framework that will reduce its risk and impact on the country.

The NZ Government’s framework for re-opening borders and moving to an individualised risk-based model for quarantine-free travel was unveiled at a forum on Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World in Wellington today.  

The release of the framework followed Sir David Skegg’s Strategic COVID-19 Public Health Advisory Group’s advice to Government last Wednesday. 

During the forum, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the NZ Government will use the second half of this year to vaccinate as many New Zealanders as possible, ramping up its vaccination rollout by allowing all eligible ages to get vaccinated starting September 1.  

She also revealed that the Government will safely conduct a self-isolation trial for vaccinated citizens as preparation for a phased resumption of quarantine-free travel. 

“Getting vaccinated is the number one thing everyone can do to be protected against COVID-19, help accelerate our economic recovery, reduce the risk of lockdowns, and safely allow New Zealand’s borders to begin re-opening next year,” Prime Minister Ardern said. 

“The plan announced today is informed by the best available scientific evidence and public health advice. It will allow us to capture the opportunities vaccination brings, while protecting the gains New Zealanders have worked so hard for.” 

Prime Minister Ardern explained that the key to the framework was maintaining the country’s Elimination Strategy and that the first step was speeding up the vaccination process to ensure partial vaccination. 

“From today we are moving to a six-week period between doses, meaning more people can get their first dose quicker and ensuring everyone is at least partially vaccinated in the coming months. Those who work at our border, have underlying health conditions or wish to be fully vaccinated sooner can still get their second dose after three weeks,” she said. 

“We are also bringing forward the eligibility dates for the remaining groups. As already announced 50 plus will be open from Friday 13th August, 40 plus will be open on Wednesday 18th August, 30 plus will be open on Wednesday 25th August and from 1 September we will be open for all eligible ages.” 

Once enough New Zealanders have been vaccinated, the NZ Government will start a phased introduction of an individual risk-based approach to border settings in 2022. 

Under the new framework, Low-Risk, Medium-Risk and High-Risk travel pathways will be created. Travellers will take certain travel pathways based on the risk associated with where they are coming from and their vaccination status. 

Each pathway will have testing and isolation requirements proportionate to their associated risk. The Low-Risk pathway will permit quarantine free entry for vaccinated travellers who have been in low-risk countries. 

Meanwhile, the Medium-Risk pathway will include a combination of self-isolation and/or reduced MIQ for vaccinated travellers who have been in medium-risk countries. The NZ Government will run a self-isolation pilot this year to test processes and systems for the safe use of this tool. 

Businesses and organisations that need to send their staff overseas will be invited to express interest in participating in the pilot, which will run between October and December 2021. 

As for the High-Risk pathway, the NZ Government laid out a continuation of a full 14 days in MIQ and testing for unvaccinated travellers and any traveller. This will include vaccinated travellers who have been in very high risk or high-risk countries. 

Since the individual risk-based approach will require new systems to be set up, the NZ Government will use the remainder of 2021 to prepare for the operation of borders under this system. This will include ongoing work on the development of a traveller health declaration system, investigating new testing technology for rapid testing on arrival at airports and reliable pre-departure testing. The NZ Government will also prepare to pilot self-isolation arrangements for some New Zealanders and strengthening other public health measures such as contact tracing. 

“New Zealand remains in a strong position. We don’t have COVID in the community and our economy is more open than most,” Prime Minister Ardern said.

“Our plan to reopen our borders both protects the gains we have won while setting us up to safely reconnect New Zealanders and business with the world and seize the opportunities created by our COVID success.”

SOURCE: BEEHIVE.GOVT.NZ MEDIA RELEASE

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