WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand is bringing forward the opening of its international borders to some travelers after more than two years of Covid-19 isolation, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying an influx of tourists will strengthen the nation’s economy.
The change means the end of some of the toughest border controls in the world during the Covid pandemic, imposed as the government tried to keep the coronavirus out, comes months ahead of the previous schedule.
New Zealand’s policies helped keep infections and deaths low. But with the more transmissible omicron variant of the virus now rampant, criticism has grown as business, particularly tourism, and agricultural sectors see little value in staying shut off from the world.
Ardern told reporters on Wednesday that vaccinated travelers from Australia, New Zealand’s biggest source of tourists, can enter without the need to quarantine starting April 12 rather than July as previously planned.
Tourists from visa-waiver countries including the United States, Britain and Singapore will now be able to visit starting May 1.
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“Closing our border was one of the first actions we took to stop Covid-19, over two years ago, and its reopening will spur our economic recovery throughout the remainder of the year,” she said.
The changes mean Australians will be able to travel to New Zealand in time for Easter school holidays next month.
All visitors must be vaccinated and provide negative Covid tests, but would not have to quarantine on arrival. The border is not scheduled to fully reopen to all travelers until October, but Ardern said this could also be brought forward.