New Zealand has welcomed its first international tourists since March 2020 as part of the government’s phased reopening. Visitors from 60 visa-waiver nations, including the US and UK, can now enter for the first time since the closure of borders and the ensuing implementation of some of the world’s toughest contra pandemic measures.
In emotional scenes at Auckland airport, the first flights landed from Los Angeles and San Francisco, and arrivals handed popular locally made chocolate bars.
Vaccinated travellers are required to have a negative pre-departure Covid test. On arrival, they must self-test for coronavirus. Non-vaccinated visitors will be allowed to enter from October, unless the government decides to lift restrictions earlier.
New Zealand implemented some of the toughest measures in the world during the pandemic. It has started to easy the increasinly unpopularity of the measures with the aim to boost tourism and ease labour shortages.
Borders were opened to New Zealanders and Australians in February and March.
More than 30,000 people are scheduled to arrive into New Zealand per week – an increase on numbers throughout the pandemic (when only domestic arrival were permitted entry), but well below pre-Covid levels, which were close to 25,000 people each day.
Tourism minister, Stuart Nash, said the reopening heralded a step towards the country getting back to normal.
He said: “This has been a long time [coming] – this sends a signal we are now open for business … it is fantastic to see.”
“Today marks a milestone for visitors from our key northern hemisphere markets in the USA, UK, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada and others, who can now jump on a plane to come here.”
He also told 1News: “People haven’t seen each other for a long, long time – family and friends. We have also, of course, got international business people [who] are able to reconnect and they are coming back.”