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New Zealand to Bring Forward COVID-19 Border Reopening


FILE - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gestures during the post-Cabinet press conference in Wellington, New Zealand, Monday, March 7, 2022. (Mark Mitchell/Pool Photo via AP)

SYDNEY — New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her country will soon reopen its borders to tourists as it relaxes its COVID-19 restrictions, bringing forward plans to allow in international travelers after more than two years of border closures.

The prime minister made the announcement Wednesday saying that vaccinated tourists from nearby Australia can enter New Zealand beginning April 12, followed by vaccinated visitors from visa-waiver countries such as Britain, Canada, Germany and the United States beginning May 2. None of the tourists will be required to enter into a mandatory coronavirus quarantine period after arriving in New Zealand.

Ardern said it is time to reconnect with the rest of the world. “We have now received guidance that it is safe to significantly bring forward the next stage of border reopening work to welcome back our tourists,” she said.

“In doing so, we are sending a very clear message that we are accelerating our economic recovery. Closing our border was one of the first actions we took to stop COVID-19, over two years ago, and its reopening will spur our economic recovery throughout the remainder of the year.”

In addition to showing proof of vaccination, foreign tourists must also test negative for COVID-19 before leaving their home country and once again before they depart.

Australians will be allowed to travel to New Zealand without needing to quarantine or isolate from April 13.

FILE - A sign painted near the runway of the Wellington International Airport greets travelers returning home in Wellington, New Zealand, April 19, 2021. The sign reads "Welcome Whanau" with the second word an Indigenous Maori word meaning family. (AP Photo/Nick Perry)
FILE - A sign painted near the runway of the Wellington International Airport greets travelers returning home in Wellington, New Zealand, April 19, 2021. The sign reads "Welcome Whanau" with the second word an Indigenous Maori word meaning family. (AP Photo/Nick Perry)

Most international travelers have been banned from New Zealand since March 2020. Border closures and strict lockdowns were at the heart of a COVID elimination strategy that did work, initially. However, New Zealand’s defenses were eventually overwhelmed by the delta and omicron variants.

Daily case numbers are now above 20,000. Just a few weeks ago they were below 1,000. Even so, the government says it is able to bring forward its plans to reopen the borders by several weeks because of New Zealand’s “strong health response” to COVID-19, including high rates of vaccinations. It has recorded only about 115 deaths during the pandemic, according to official figures.

In February, New Zealand said international tourists would be able to return from July, but said this date would likely be moved forwards.

Travel industry officials in New Zealand have welcomed the accelerated reopening of the borders.

Government figures have shown that tourism generated more than 5% of the country’s national income, or GDP, before the pandemic, and employed 8% of the workforce.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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