Changes to MIQ for vaccinated travellers 'quite a way' off - Hipkins

New Zealand is "quite a way" from making changes to managed isolation requirements for vaccinated travellers coming into the country, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today.   

The arrivals area at Auckland Airport

He said alterations such as decreasing MIQ stays from 14 days was unlikely to happen this year or in the early part of next year.

Some countries around the world are trialling or considering reduced MIQ times for Covid-19 vaccinated citizens or travellers returning.

When asked today if New Zealand was considering reduced MIQ stays for vaccinated people, Hipkins said he did not know if there would be a "magic point where that would happen".

"We're still quite a way away from that.

"Certainly, for this year people will be in MIQ for 14 days, probably into early next year as well, but we haven't made any firm decisions about that."

On what MIQ in the future for vaccinated travellers could look like, Hipkins said there could be a variety of options considered. 

"I don't want to put a timeframe on this but it might include things like alternative isolation options, like people isolating at home when they come back into the country.

"But that's a way away, it's not going to happen this year I don't think, and certainly (not) in the early part of this year. I'd imagine things are going to continue much the same way as they are now."

In the next few weeks Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is set to release advice around the  "proposed pathway forward"  from Covid-19. 

Ardern said last week that given the amount of evidence and research emerging, New Zealand's "broad plans" would be updated regularly.

Last week, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said that restrictions at the border would be "with us for some time as the pandemic continues to evolve around the world". 

"But that doesn’t mean it will remain as restrictive as it is now."

Asked today about the possibility of vaccine passports, which could be an official document to prove immunisation against Covid-19, Hipkins said discussions were "very active". 

"A vaccine passport can do more than just vaccines, it can also provide testing information as well. 

"The sooner we can get to a health passport that can be digitally verified, which can include someone's vaccine history and testing history, the better. 

"It is certainly possible we will see that happen before the end of the year. What that means in terms of our MIQ, that will take longer to work through."

Australia decided to reduce by half its international arrivals after its Covid-19 outbreaks, alongside a trial for some vaccinated passengers to complete their isolation at home. Australian PM Scott Morrison also said that advice he had received showed seven days of isolation for a vaccinated passenger was stronger than 14 days of isolation of an un-vaccinated traveller. 

Canada has rolled out different rules for most fully vaccinated citizens who can skip isolation, but must prove they are vaccinated and have a test on arrival.