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Covid-19: New Zealand welcomes Australian visitors as border restrictions ease

Tourists from visa-waiver countries will now be able to visit from May 1



AP file
AP file

By Reuters

Published: Wed 13 Apr 2022, 7:38 AM

Last updated: Wed 13 Apr 2022, 7:39 AM

Australians started arriving in New Zealand on Wednesday after it opened its borders to travellers from its neighbouring nation for the first time since mid-2021.

New Zealand had some of the toughest curbs in the world during the pandemic and its borders have been closed for most of the time since March 2020, except for a short-lived travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia last year that was suspended after a few months as Covid-19 spread.

But the government has started to ease these increasingly unpopular measures, hoping to boost tourism and ease labour shortages now that Omicron is widespread domestically.

"This is the first step in welcoming international visitors back to our shores and we couldn't be more excited for both New Zealand and Air New Zealand," said Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty in a statement.

The airline said that it was running 11 near-full flights from Australia with the first landing at Auckland International Airport earlier this morning.

Television footage showed emotional scenes of families and friends reuniting as two flights from Australia touched down in Auckland. Signs were distributed to those waiting in the Arrivals Lounge declaring "Hello & Kia Ora & G'day & Welcome".

Foreigners were previously banned outright from entering, and until February citizens looking to return had to either make emergency requests to the government or secure a spot in state quarantine facilities.

Tourists from visa-waiver countries including the United States, Britain and Singapore will now be able to visit from May 1.

The border will remain closed for all other visitors until October.

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Chris Hipkins, Covid-19 Response Minister, said restrictions within the country would be further eased too as the number of new cases fall and pressures ease on hospitals.

From Thursday, there will no longer be restrictions on the number of people able to attend an indoor event and there will be some easing on where masks have to be worn.


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