Travel to New Zealand during Covid-19: What you need to know before you go

Editor’s Note — Coronavirus cases remain high across the globe. Health officials caution that travel increases your chances of getting and spreading the virus. Staying home is the best way to stem transmission. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on January 21.

(CNN) — If you’re planning a trip to New Zealand, here’s what you’ll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The basics

New Zealand has become the poster child for how to deal with Covid-19. Its early lockdown and strict border measures mean it has suppressed the virus to an astonishing degree.

What’s on offer

New Zealand’s landscape is the stuff of legend. Arthur’s Pass National Park, with its soaring peaks and deep valleys is ripe for “tramping”, the locals’ term for a good, long hike. Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile beach offer vast sea views from the tip of North Island. Meanwhile, indigenous Maori culture permeates every aspect of the country. Pick up an RV and it’s easy to find an empty corner of this magical country to explore.

Who can go

The rules are simple. Other than a few exceptions for partners, dependents and critical workers, only New Zealand residents and citizens are allowed into the country without first requesting to travel.

Any other travel into the country must be for a critical purpose and admission must be obtained first. You can find out more about border entry requirements here.

What are the restrictions?

New Zealand has maintained some of the toughest travel guidelines in the world since March. All arrivals, including New Zealand citizens, must undertake 14 days of mandatory quarantine and test negative for Covid-19 at the end of this period before entering the community.

All arrivals must book their place in a managed isolation and quarantine facility prior to travel, and a voucher confirming that a space has been booked must be presented before boarding. Availability is currently extremely limited.

Travelers coming from the United Kingdom or United States must also have a negative Covid-19 test result before boarding their flight.

Travelers from New Zealand to Australia can fly to the states of New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory in their neighboring country without having to quarantine, but must spend 14 days isolating in a managed isolation and quarantine facility on their return. Plans for a two-way travel bubble between the countries are yet to be finalized, but the New Zealand government recently reconfirmed that it hopes to have an arrangement in place by April 2021. More details can be found on the Australian and New Zealand government websites.
A one-way travel bubble with the Cook Islands opened on January 21, with passengers from the Cook Islands enjoying quarantine-free travel into New Zealand. However, passengers from New Zealand to the Cook Islands are still required to quarantine for 14 days on arrival .

What’s the Covid situation?

New Zealand has successfully eliminated Covid-19 in the community, with all recent positives coming inside managed isolation facilities. After a handful of cases were found in Auckland in August after 102 days without a positive test, the city went back into a strict lockdown until October. The country’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has won plaudits for her handling of the crisis, in which only 25 people have died, with 2,267 cases overall.

What can visitors expect?

Those able to enter New Zealand will find life lived much as it was pre-pandemic. The country is currently at Alert Level 1, which means that the virus is contained. Mass gatherings are limited to 500, but while physical distancing is encouraged, it isn’t mandatory. Bars and restaurants are open, but contact tracing measures are in place.

The country’s Alert Levels go up to 4, at which point a stay-at-home order would be in place and education facilities would be closed.

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Joe Minihane, Julia Buckley and Maureen O’Hare contributed to this report

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