The Government of New Zealand has fully reopened its borders effective August 1 to foreign visitors, thus ending the sanitary restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic. The South Pacific country had one of the toughest travel regimes imposed on health grounds globally. Before Covid-19, tourism accounted for 5.5% of New Zealand's GDP.
This was the last step of a gradual return to pre-coronavirus times after restrictions were lifted from New Zealand citizens, followed in May by the return of tourists from more than 50 countries including the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The final restrictions ended at midnight Sunday, as the country once again welcomes tourists from non-visa waiver countries, international students, and cruise ships. However, most visitors will still need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and take two tests after arriving, but will not have to quarantine.
“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,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday.
The country had performed remarkably at keeping SARS-CoV-2 at bay until the arrival of the highly infectious Omicron variant in December, which found its way through the tough controls. While the South Pacific country at one point boasted one of the lowest death tolls on earth, its isolation decimated industries such as tourism and left thousands of New Zealanders stranded overseas.
In light of the new measures, Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Rene de Monchy anticipates business picking up slowly. “The return of international tourism is expected to take time as people across the globe gain travel confidence,” he told reporters. “Tourism New Zealand is working hard to encourage visitation from key markets to boost the recovery of tourism and support the country’s economy,” he added.
The first cruise liner is expected to dock in Auckland around mid-August.
During the pandemic, Air New Zealand stopped serving Buenos Aires' Ezeiza airport and there are no indications the route would be resumed any time soon.