New Zealand reopens to tourists after two-year pandemic lockout

FE ONLINE DESK | Monday, 2 May 2022

New Zealand has reopened its borders to more international visitors after a pandemic lockout of more than two years.

Travellers touched down at Auckland Airport on Monday, many to emotional reunions with family and friends, reports BBC.

People from more than 60 countries are now able to enter the country if they're vaccinated and Covid-negative.

Citizens have been able to travel in and out since March, while Australians have been let in since April.

One US man said he had travelled from Cincinnati to be with his partner. He had been waiting since February 2020 - when he applied for the visa.

"I'm finally here today. I've never been within 6,000 miles of this country and my first time here. I'm home. It's the best feeling I've ever had," David Benson told the BBC.

New Zealand sealed its borders in March 2020 - requiring even returning citizens to complete weeks of quarantine upon entering.

The government has credited the nation's low Covid death toll - 713 deaths for a population of five million - to its isolation strategy, as well policies of rapid testing, tracing and lockdown.

But some New Zealanders protested over the strict restrictions and lockdowns. There was also anger over the lengthy period that citizens overseas were effectively blocked from entering the country - thanks to limited quarantine slots in the system.

But after the community spread of the Delta and then Omicron variants, the government decided to stagger a move from a Covid eradication strategy to living with the virus.

When announcing the border re-opening earlier this year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the South Pacific nation was "ready to welcome the world back".

New Zealand's economy is heavily reliant on tourism from international visitors, and operators have said they're looking forward to the resumption of activity.