new zealand's borders
As New Zealand moves in to Alert Level 2, NZ barber shops like this one in Wellington will be filled with students wanting a hair cut. Source: Marty Melville/AFP

International students could soon enter New Zealand again if universities are able to quarantine them safely.

New Zealand’s borders remain closed to non-citizens; international students, however, could be exempt from this restriction in the future, New Zealand education minister Chris Hipkins last week suggested.

“Unlike tourists who are coming here for a short period of time, international students are coming here for a year or more,” Hipkins told local media.

‘It’s quite possible that we would be able to work with international education providers to manage a period of quarantine at the beginning of, say, a year’s worth of study so they can come into New Zealand.”

This may look something like Canada’s similar measures, where international students are quarantined for 14 days upon arrival in separate residential quarters and had delivered meals to them.

“It is possible that we’ll be able to put a quarantine arrangement in place for international students coming into New Zealand that sees them quarantining for two weeks, that way we know that when they come into wider New Zealand society they are COVID-free,” Hipkins said.

“And then it may well be possible that we can resume more international education in that environment.”

For the government to reopen borders to international students, the minister said colleges and universities need to provide an “enforceable model” that is convincing.

“We could not be relying on trust for example … We would need to see assurance, we’d need to see a good concrete proposal but we’re certainly open to receiving that proposal,” he added.

Up to one-third of international students in New Zealand universities are unable to enter the country this year. In April, only 75 international students entered New Zealand, according to The PIE News; at the same time last year, over 6,000 student visa holders entered the country.

What’s the current situation with New Zealand’s borders

At the time of writing, New Zealand’s borders remain closed to international students.

The New Zealand government’s immigration website states: “There are a limited number of exceptions for other travellers who should seek approval from INZ before travelling. The starting point for consideration is that the New Zealand border is closed for all but critical travel, and that protecting public health in New Zealand is paramount.”

New Zealand enacted one of the restricted COVID-19 lockdowns globally to “eliminate the virus”.

New Zealand’s borders have been shut to most travellers since March 19; only Kiwis and residents can enter, subject to a 14-day quarantine or self-isolation upon entry.

That was level four of the country’s four-level COVID-19 alert system, a platform that allows people to see and plan for the kinds of restrictions the government put in place.

On May 13, Ardern announced that the country is now in “Alert Level 2,” which means the disease is contained, but the risk of community transmission remains.

Socialising in groups up to 10, domestic travel and the opening of businesses to the public are allowed in this stage.

Ardern emphasized that the country still has to “absolutely exercise caution”.

“New Zealand is not out of the woods yet, and we have to remember that although we’re moving into Alert Level 2, the issue continues to be managing places where we’re all congregating together,” she said.

new zealand's borders

Women sit on the waterfront in Wellington on May 14, 2020. New Zealand will phase out its coronavirus lockdown over the next 10 days after successfully containing the virus, although some restrictions will remain. Source: Marty Melville/AFP

Are New Zealand’s universities reopening?

The government guideline states: “It is safe to send your children to schools, early learning services and tertiary education. There will be appropriate measures in place.”

Ultimately, it is up to your university when they reopen for campus-based lessons.

If your university does reopen, it stands to be closed again if any COVID-19 threats turn up.

“If an education facility has a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, they must close on an individual or group basis for 72 hours, to allow contact tracing, and then potentially for a further 14 days if required,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a speech on May 7.

Alert Level 2 still means that lectures or gatherings with more than 100 people cannot happen and that on-campus activities would require physical distancing.

Since the announcement, your university may have made a few announcements of their own to help restructure your study plans.

new zealand's borders

From May 14 shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas and playgrounds will reopen in New Zealand. Social distancing is advised. Source: Marty Melville/AFP

Your university may even take extra precautions, such as preventing vulnerable staff and students from attending lessons and continuing remote learning.

If your campus accommodation was closed during lockdown, your university may choose to reopen it with extra COVID-precautions such as temperature checks and hand sanitising stations.

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