Open borders critical so NZ doesn't become 'North Korea of South Pacific'

Source: 1News

Sir Brian Roche, who heads a group advising the Government on its Covid-19 response, says the re-opening of New Zealand's borders must happen so the country doesn't become "the North Korea of the South Pacific".

His comments come after advice around the re-opening was released on Wednesday from the Government's strategic Covid-19 Public Health Advisory Group, separate from Roche's group. The Government responded to the advice yesterday.

A phased re-opening of New Zealand's border in 2022 is planned, but only once the vaccine rollout is complete.

Slowly admitting travellers from outside the country without MIQ will become an option, but they should face certain requirements, such as proof of vaccination, pre-departure testing and rapid testing on arrival in New Zealand.

Roche this morning told Breakfast while the timing cannot be precise, noting the current Delta variant outbreak of Covid-19 in Australia, the re-opening was a "critical" step.

"We've got it right so far so you've got to back yourself that we can get it right," he said.

"To make that opening as safe as possible we need to really get maximum vaccination across the country, and you'll have seen that that's ramped up significantly in the last month."

Auckland, New Zealand, NZ - February 5, 2017: Travellers at the check-in area at Auckland International Airport early in the morning

New Zealand will conduct a small trial of self-isolation for some vaccinated Kiwi returnees this year, to test the re-opening strategy. 

"I think its a practical and realistic innovation of what we've been doing," Roche said, "we can't be suspended in the current model forever".

He said it was critical to open borders at some point, so experimenting with options was the right approach to get it right, noting both the self isolation pilot scheme and a volunteer on the advisory panel to wear an ankle bracelet.

"It's an experiment we have to do otherwise we'll be trapped in time. We cannot be the North Korea of the South Pacific.

"I think prudently we have to assume that this virus will be with us for an extended period of time and actually just get our head around that, and the same way that when 9/11 happened we thought never travel again and we did."