Quarantine-free travel to NZ for Vanuatu seasonal workers

Under relaxed COVID-19 restrictions introduced earlier this month, seasonal workers travelling from Vanuatu to New Zealand will only have to spend up to seven days in isolation on arrival.

The Vanuatu and New Zealand governments signed up to the new arrangements earlier this month, scrapping earlier requirements for workers to spend up 14 days in a quarantine facility on arrival.

Vanuatu’s Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, welcomed the initiative, saying Vanuatu was looking to set up a wider travel bubble with New Zealand.

Mr Loughman says if the quarantine-free trial works well for seasonal workers, there is a high chance Vanuatu will open borders with New Zealand.

New Zealand’s High Commissioner in Vanuatu, Johnathan Schwass, says if the quarantine-free travel with seasonal workers goes well, the travel bubble would be first extended to include government ministers.

Vanuatu’s Commissioner of Labour, Murielle Metsan Meltenoven, said the initiative is a sign that New Zealand has confidence in Vanuatu as a COVID-19 free country.

Mrs Meltenoven says the new agreement allows workers to stay in approved accommodation provided by employers and to undertake COVID testing on days one and five of their stay.

The commissioner says all 150 workers who are travelling to New Zealand today must have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination prior to their departure, with second doses to be delivered in New Zealand.

Vanuatu seasonal workers are the first in the Pacific to be granted quarantine-free travel to New Zealand, with seasonal workers from Samoa and Tonga to be eligible from 12 October.

Lory Thompson, a seasonal worker from Vanuatu, says since his group is the first to travel under the new quarantine-free agreement, the workers will closely follow all protocols.

The Public Health Director, Len Tarivonda, says the World Health Organisation has recommended that people can take two different vaccines especially AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

Oxford University research released last month suggested that mixing the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines can generate a strong immune response to COVID-19.

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