Jacinda Arden, Prime Minister of New Zealand, announced on Wednesday Gradual reopening of borders for some travelers. “We are ready to welcome the world back,” she told reporters. Travelers who have been vaccinated from Australia can enter New Zealand without having to undergo a quarantine period from April 12. This procedure was initially planned from July.
After Australia, tourists from visa-exempt countries, such as the United States, Canada, Great Britain and European Union countries, will be able to travel to New Zealand from May 1. All travelers must be vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19. “We are now known around the world for being considered not only clean and green, but also safe,” added Jacinda Arden.
The declaration does not apply to arrivals from countries such as China and India, where a visa is required. They will still have to self-isolate for 10 days upon arrival. That requirement is not expected to be rescinded until October, but the prime minister said the date was also likely to be brought forward.
Strict two-year policy
Applying the “Zero covid” strategy, New Zealand closed its borders in March 2020, in order to protect itself from the coronavirus pandemic, and only allow access to its citizens. For most of the pandemic, all international arrivals have had to undergo a two-week quarantine in government-run hotels guarded by the military.
The country also witnessed several periods of imprisonment. Upon the arrival of the Delta variant, mid-August 2021, it was decided to fully contain the archipelago. In Auckland, the country’s largest city, it was extended in the face of the new cases observed. It lasted three and a half months, until December 2021 when the rest of the country was able to leave in October. These strict border controls have been a key component of success in combating the coronavirus in New Zealand, which has recorded just 117 deaths since the start of the pandemic for a population of five million.
Economic sectors against prolonged isolation
Despite the massive explosion in the number of cases in recent weeks, including 21,000 new cases recorded on Tuesday, the current spread of the Omicron variant has generally caused less severe forms of COVID-19 than previous strains of the coronavirus. The population is vaccinated at over 95% and the archipelago regrets very few deaths.
The option to introduce the reopening of borders is part of this framework. It also responds to the demands of many economic sectors, including the tourism and agricultural sectors, which have protested against the strict health policy.
In her speech, Jacinda Arden claimed that the influx of tourists would boost the country’s economy. New Zealand welcomed 3.9 million international tourists in 2019, generating more than €19.86 billion annually. Air New Zealand welcomed the change and said it was ready to increase flights to meet demand.
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