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New Zealand Experts Recommend Slow Reopening of Border —Update

   By Stephen Wright 
 

WELLINGTON, New Zealand--Travel to New Zealand is likely to remain highly restricted next year even after Covid-19 vaccinations reach a maximum level, according to a group of experts advising the government.

Assuming the Pfizer vaccine used by New Zealand remains effective and the adult population is vaccinated, New Zealand citizens could in 2022 travel to countries deemed low risk and face a shorter stay in quarantine or no quarantine on return, the public health advisory group said Wednesday.

That would be the first step in an incremental approach to allowing more travelers into the country, which has largely restricted arrivals to citizens and long-term residents since March last year. Proof of vaccination, pre-departure testing and rapid testing on arrival in New Zealand are also likely to be requirements.

"No-one knows what the outcome of this pandemic will be in say 3-5 years time," the public health advisory group said. "New Zealand needs to have a strategy that can accommodate both the optimistic and pessimistic scenarios, as well as a more likely path somewhere in between."

The government released the advice ahead of a public forum Thursday on its plans for reopening from the pandemic.

The experts backed the government's so-called elimination strategy, which aims to keep the Covid-19 virus out of New Zealand altogether. They said New Zealand's hospitals are poorly equipped to deal with a large Covid-19 outbreak.

The country of five million has had about 2,500 Covid-19 cases and few deaths, helped by its remote geography and a strict lockdown from late March to early May last year. It is aiming to vaccinate all adults this year.

Standard & Poor's has said that international passengers through Auckland Airport--New Zealand's main international gateway--could reach 50%-60% of pre-pandemic levels in its financial year ending June 2023.

 

Write to Stephen Wright at stephen.wright@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 10, 2021 17:52 ET (21:52 GMT)

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