New Zealand’s borders are fully open for the first time since closing abruptly to keep Covid-19 out in March 2020.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the nation was “open for business” after the final stage of the phased reopening, which began in April, was completed on Sunday evening.
Visitors from around the world will once again be allowed to enter New Zealand, including sea arrivals, student visas and those from visa-free countries, such as China and India.
Ardern said the reopening was “a huge moment” in a speech at the China Business Summit on Monday morning.
“This has been a step-by-step and careful process on our part since February as we, alongside the rest of the world, continue to manage a very lively global pandemic, while keeping our people safe,” he said. she declared.
“New Zealanders are hosts. manaakitanga [hospitality] runs through our veins and we open our arms to tourists and students, including from China, which before 2020 was New Zealand’s largest source of international students and the second largest source of tourists.
“For those looking to make their journey here, haere mai, we welcome you.”
Foreign cruise ships and pleasure yachts will also be allowed to dock in the country’s ports. Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said the return of cruise ships – whose guests spent NZ$365 million ashore a year before the pandemic – would be a big boost to local economies.
“Most cruise visits take place during the warmer months of October through April… This will be full steam ahead for the industry, which can plan with certainty for the rest of the year and beyond,” said Nash said in a statement.
Tourism operators, businesses and education service providers have welcomed the news, despite predictions from Immigration New Zealand that visitors are more likely to arrive – than flock – in the coming months.
“I think it’s safe to say that we don’t expect the same level of demand that we saw before Covid. It’s probably for a number of reasons,” Immigration New Zealand’s Simon Sanders told national broadcaster RNZ.
“We know that China, which is a bigger country requiring a visitor visa, is still subject to a series of travel restrictions, so we don’t expect a lot of demand from there, at least initially. “
He encouraged students who have offers to study to apply for their visas immediately and urged those wishing to study in 2023 to wait a few months “so that we can guarantee that those due to arrive this year will be able to do so”.
The full reopening comes at the same time that New Zealand is among the top seven countries in the world for the average daily number of confirmed Covid cases per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
A University of Auckland study published last week warned that reopening the border could see Covid-19 cases seeded abroad quadruple – and that could further strain the already existing healthcare system squeaky.