After two years cut off from the world owing to the pandemic, New Zealand will reopen its borders from next month — much earlier than previously expected.
Australians will be allowed to travel to the country from April 12, while vaccinated travellers from countries with visa waiver arrangements, including the UAE, the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, Japan and Singapore, can enter from May 1, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Wednesday.
“We’re ready to welcome the world back,” she said. “New Zealand will be ready with open arms.”
Tourism minister Stuart Nash also said the country was "ready to roll out the green and gold carpet to our Australian neighbours, and in time for the school holidays".
“We have missed you,” he said.
New Zealand implemented some of the strictest travel restrictions in the world at the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, with Ardern closing borders as the first cases were confirmed in the country.
The move worked to successfully eliminate the virus in the country, with much of the following two years being spent with very few cases, as Covid continued to sweep around the world.
The country is now ready to reopen its borders after fully vaccinating more than 95 per cent of the population aged 12 and above, with 72 per cent also having a third booster shot.
Arden says welcoming back tourists will spur economic recovery over the remainder of the year.
“This brings with it huge economic opportunities for us — we will be a sought-after market. We’re now known globally as not just being clean and green, but also being safe, so we know that we’ll be in high demand,” Ardern said.
Travellers from countries without visa waivers, including India and China, will not be able to enter New Zealand until October, although Ardern said those dates would be reviewed.
“We are considering how we might be able to bring forward other visa categories as well,” she said.
All tourists entering New Zealand will be required to have a negative PCR test.
“While we have removed all travel isolation so that tourists will be able to experience the sights and sounds immediately, they will be required to have a pre-departure test,” Ardern said.
Earlier this year, the government opened the borders to New Zealanders trapped overseas, many of whom had spent months locked out of the country because of the strict border rules and limited quarantine hotel space.