New Zealand fully reopens borders, marking the end of COVID controls

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The South Pacific country began easing its strict border regime in February.

New Zealand has fully reopened to international visitors, lifting the last vestiges of one of the toughest border regimes introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The country began reopening its borders in February with the lifting of restrictions on 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 latest border restrictions ended at midnight on Sunday with tourists from non-visa-exempt countries, international students and cruise ships allowed to enter the country.

Most visitors will still need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and undergo two tests upon arrival, but will not be required to quarantine.

“It has been a phased and cautious process on our part since February as we, along with the rest of the world, continue to manage a very living global pandemic, while keeping our people safe,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during a speech at the China Business Summit in Auckland on Monday.

New Zealand largely kept COVID-19 out of the country during the pandemic until the arrival of the highly contagious Omicron variant in December largely disrupted strict border controls.

While the South Pacific country at one point had one of the lowest death tolls on Earth, its isolation decimated industries such as tourism and left thousands of New Zealanders stranded abroad.

Before the pandemic, tourism and international education were New Zealand’s largest and fourth largest exports, respectively, employing more than 225,000 people.



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