Vaccination status may be factor for travellers when borders open

Government officials are preparing advice around possibilities of re-opening the border and what that could mean for requirements such as MIQ stays for Covid-19 vaccinated travellers. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

Director of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told reporters today the prospect of decreasing or altering the current two-week MIQ requirement for people coming into New Zealand from outside bubble countries "really plays into the whole 're-opening of the border'".

He said there was ongoing work around if there were other countries that could be brought into the quarantine-free travel arrangement, which New Zealand only currently holds with Australia and the Cook Islands. 

"Then it's what might be some of the prerequisites for allowing people to come across the border, outside of a quarantine free travel arrangement without having to go through managed isolation?

"One of the things will be vaccination status."

The USA's Centres for Disease Control and Prevention found early evidence was suggesting people fully immunised with Pfizer or Moderna vaccines were less likely to transmit Covid-19 to others or were less likely to have asymptomatic infections. 

Dr Bloomfield said even with a fully-vaccinated status, there were questions around which vaccine was administrated and when, and where the traveller had come from and how they got to New Zealand to determine the risk they might be infected.

"There's still a chance people who are fully vaccinated could be infected."

"That will be considered alongside pre-departure testing and potentially testing on arrival," Bloomfield said. 

In March, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said as the vaccine rollout ramps up in New Zealand, it would "open up space" to have conversations around easing border restrictions for Covid-19 vaccinated travellers.

"That is one of the things we’ll keep under constant review," Hipkins said at the time. 

Earlier this month, Hipkins said Covid-19 vaccine passports would be "almost an inevitability" within the next year, with New Zealand actively involved in conversations around vaccine passports.

A vaccine passport is a way of people being able to show and prove they have been vaccinated for Covid-19, usually in the context of overseas travel.

On May 27, an MIQ spokesperson told 1 NEWS a review was planned of the roles undertaken by defence personnel in running MIQ facilities.

"This review will assist in ensuring a sustainable MIQ system for as long as it is required, and identify any roles that can be transitioned to appropriately skilled civilian staff.

"The Government has set aside funding to support the health system's Covid-19 response and to maintain quarantine facilities up to June 2022; however, as yet, there is no fixed end date for the involvement of NZDF in supporting MIQ."