Plans to open "Fortress New Zealand" to the world hinging on a successful vaccination campaign have drawn political consensus, with division only in the how and how fast.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern set out a four-step plan to re-open the borders at a forum on reconnecting New Zealanders to the world – from the current situation to quarantine-free travel for all vaccinated travellers in the future.
A trial would take place this year of home isolation for business-focused travellers, and shorter MIQ stays for selected travellers.
That would be followed by the phased resumption of quarantine-free travel from the first quarter of next year.
The plan would eventually involve three "pathways of travel" into New Zealand based on levels of risk, prioritising vaccinated travellers.
Ardern said the Government intended for New Zealand to continue pursuing the elimination approach, meaning no community transmission of the virus.
This meant the opening up had to be carefully managed, and hinged on "high" vaccination rates.
Currently about 20 per cent of the eligible population - those aged over 16 - are fully vaccinated.
The Government aims to have every eligible person have the opportunity to be vaccinated by the end of the year, which could include children if approved.
Ardern said she was against setting a target, rather saying they were aiming for a "high rate".
The Covid-19 health advisory group report, upon which most of the today's announcements were based, advised against an overall target, rather aiming for getting everybody vaccinated.
They also argued a broad target did not necessarily give them the population-specific information they needed to know. Rather they suggested targeting priority groups and having good regional data to identify any potential missed areas.
National Party leader Judith Collins said the announcements were a step in the right direction, but it all hinged on a successful vaccination campaign.
To achieve this, Collins said there should be a target the "team of 5 million" could mobilise behind.
"We continue to call for a formal ambitious vaccination target or range of targets.
"A target would encourage uptake by mobilising the team of five million to come together behind a common goal."
Act Party leader David Seymour said today's announcement was a step in the right direction.
However, he said the Government had taken too long, and should look into private managed isolation systems for low-risk travellers to increase the amount of people able to come through.
"The Government's announcement that low-risk travellers might be able to enter the country without MIQ sometime in 2022 will sound like a distant dream for separated families and struggling businesses."
Business leader Rob Fyfe, who is the liaison between the Government and the private sector for the extent of the Covid-19 crisis, said businesses would be happy to front costs associated with the quarantine-free travel trial.
They are "desperate" to get their people away to do business around the world, he said.
He had earlier told the press conference that, looking through a business lens, what destroyed confidence and viability was lockdowns.
"Businesses need to do everything they can to support people to be vaccinated."
There were many tools, including border measures, but lockdowns were the inevitable consequence where they failed.
Ardern also set out changes to the vaccine rollout, including speeding up the first dose by allowing people of all eligible ages to book by September 1.
People 50 and over would be able to book an appointment from tomorrow.
People 40 and over could book from Wednesday (August 18), people 30 and over could book a week later (August 25), and 16 and over from September 1.
An announcement for those aged 12 to 15 was expected shortly, Ardern said.
The gap between shots would also move from three weeks to six weeks, a move Ardern said would ensure more people had at least had one shot in case the Delta variant arrived.