New Zealand’s borders yesterday fully opened for the first time since they abruptly snapped shut to keep COVID-19 out in March 2020.
New Zealand 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 night.
Visitors from around the world are once again allowed into New Zealand, including maritime arrivals, those on student visas and those from non-visa waiver countries, such as China and India.
The reopening was “an enormous moment” Ardern said yesterday in a speech at the China Business Summit.
“It’s been a staged and cautious process on our part since February, as we, alongside the rest of the world, continue to manage a very live global pandemic, while keeping our people safe,” she said.
“New Zealanders are hosts. Manaakitanga [hospitality] streams through our veins and we open our arms to tourists and students, including from China, which prior to 2020 was New Zealand’s largest source of international students, and second-largest source of tourists,” she said. “For those looking to make their journey here, haere mai, we welcome you.”
Cruise ships and foreign recreational yachts would also be allowed to dock at the country’s ports.
New Zealand Minister of Tourism Stuart Nash said the return of cruise ships — whose guests spent NZ$365 million (US$231 million onshore a year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic — would be a big boost for local economies.
“Most cruise visits are during the warmer months of October to April... It will be full steam ahead for the industry, who can plan with certainty for the rest of the year and beyond,” Nash said in a statement.
Tourism operators, businesses and educational providers have welcomed the news, despite predictions from Immigration New Zealand that visitors are more likely to trickle — than flood — in over the next few months.
“I think it’s safe to say we’re not expecting the same level of demand we saw pre-COVID. That’s probably for a number of reasons,” Immigration New Zealand head Simon Sanders told Radio New Zealand.
“We know that China, who’s a larger visitor visa-required country, is still subject to a range of travel restrictions so we’re not expecting large demand from there, at least initially,” he said.
He encouraged students who have offers of study to apply immediately for their visas, and urged those looking to study in the country next year to hold off for a couple of months “so we can assure that those that need to arrive this year will be able to do so.”
The full reopening comes as New Zealand is sitting within the top seven countries in the world for average daily confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, Johns Hopkins University data showed.
A University of Auckland study released last week warned that the border reopening could see foreign-seeded COVID-19 cases rise four-fold — and that could put further strain on an already creaking health system.
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