Mon, 18 Oct 2021

WELLINGTON, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- The goal of safely re-opening New Zealand's borders and developing new ways for people to travel will start with a self-isolation pilot project, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Monday.

"As part of the reconnecting New Zealanders to the world plan announced in August, the self-isolation pilot will look at self-isolation for vaccinated travelers who have not been to very high-risk countries," Hipkins told a post-cabinet meeting press conference.

The project is to explore a new pathway of entry into New Zealand and allows the government to test operational readiness, identify areas where further work is required to scale up the approach, and provide valuable insights into the options for the future, Hipkins said.

Expressions of interest are being called for up to 150 people to participate in the project, he said, adding the scheme is aimed at business travelers, to travel overseas on a short business trip and self-isolate in approved accommodation for 14 days on their return.

"Self-isolation must be in a private dwelling with no shared ventilation system. The dwelling must have cellular coverage. Monitoring and testing over the self-isolation period will be mandatory," the minister said.

Hipkins said participants are required to be a New Zealand citizen or holders of a resident visa with a right to re-enter New Zealand, be fully vaccinated in New Zealand with the Pfizer vaccine, and not travel to or through very high-risk countries. Travel must be for business purposes which cannot be carried out from New Zealand.

Participants will be selected through an Expressions of Interest (EOI) process. Employers will need to apply on behalf of their employees and can submit their EOI between Sept. 30 and Oct. 9, he said.

"Businesses are encouraged to check the criteria carefully. As demand is expected to be higher than the numbers in the pilot," Hipkins said., stressing public safety and keeping COVID-19 out of the community still remains the top priority.

Currently, New Zealand citizens or permanent residents entering the country must stay in government-managed isolation and quarantine facilities for 14 days.

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