NZ wants more evidence before MIQ changes for vaccinated travellers

New Zealand will wait to see evidence around the reduction of Covid-19 transmission after being vaccinated, before considering any changes to MIQ requirements for vaccinated travellers. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Source: 1 NEWS

Potential alteration to MIQ requirements and times for vaccinated travellers is a question that has been continually asked of the Government, as countries overseas contemplate reduced or home isolation periods for people who are vaccinated. 

Australia decided to 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. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said while New Zealand had not put a timeline on it, "we've always said we want to look at the evidence of how vaccination reduces transmission and use that as a way that we can safely look to vary up what we're doing".

"At the moment we're still waiting for some of that evidence, we saw unfortunately some of those who have not been fully vaccinated still post a risk," she said in regard to the Covid-19 positive Sydney traveller in Wellington.

Source: 1 NEWS

"But, we have the opportunity now that some countries are starting to experiment a bit in this space to look and see what they learn from those experiments," she said. 

Today, while being questioned in the House by ACT's David Seymour, Ardern said that "everything that we're seeing around the world at the moment is experimental".

"What New Zealand has always had is that we've looked outwardly to the world, drawn on that evidence, and made decisions in New Zealand's best interests."

Seymour asked why it was taking longer for New Zealand to publish a plan around re-opening. 

Ardern said Australia had not actually published dates around the trials and that New Zealand has "carved our own path that has been right for New Zealand and, in my view, that is the reason why our economy and our health have been held in such high regard by others". 

Seymour said that New Zealand needed a roadmap "to move on from Covid-19". 

"It’s time to start treating New Zealanders like adults. This Government has never been open and transparent but it’s not too late to start," he said. 

On June 16, Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said Government officials were 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. 

Dr Bloomfield told reporters at the time 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 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."

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins had not received any advice around MIQ requirements for Covid-19 vaccinated travellers as of June 9. 

"Currently, there is not enough evidence about the efficacy of vaccinations on preventing the transmission of Covid-19 to other vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals to consider altering the isolation requirements for vaccinated people coming into the country," he said at the time. 

On the future of New Zealand's elimination strategy, Ardern yesterday said the current thinking was, "let's continue on a path that preserves as many options for New Zealand as possible, particularly as we see variants emergency".

"Variants do pose a new risk and we have to keep seeing what affect variants have on vaccination programmes."

She said New Zealand had been able to make choices while able to look overseas to see what other places had done first. 

"We will continue to watch and observe, I will also continue to set out our expected path as we go. We have a period of time now while we're vaccinating we can consider all of those options.

"We will share how we expect to change up our settings, while continuing to protect New Zealand."

She said the priority was how to "continue to preserve what New Zealand has managed to gain and give ourselves options because this virus has not done with the world yet."

"But what we also want to see is a bit more movement at our border, and I think there are ways we could safely do both."