Sydney, Australia, May 2 (EFE).- New Zealand opened its borders on Monday to vaccinated tourists from some 60 visa-waiver countries, including the United States and much of Europe, for the first time in two years.
“Kia ora” (greetings in Māori) read a large sign painted on grass near the runway at Auckland airport to welcome hundreds of passengers, the first of which landed on a flight from Los Angeles at 5.30 am local time, as music played and loved ones were reunited.
“It’s been fantastic, actually. You see a lot of those movie-scene moments where people are reconnecting with family and friends after a long two-year period,” Auckland Airport CEO Carrie Hurihanganui told national broadcaster Radio New Zealand.
On Monday, 43 flights with some 9,000 passengers will arrive and depart the airport, Hurihanganui said.
Upon arrival, travelers will be able to move freely around the country without having to quarantine, although they must self-test for Covid-19 on the first and fifth days.
In the event of a positive result, they will have to self-isolate for seven days at their own cost.
Unvaccinated foreigners cannot enter the country unless they obtain an exemption, which is granted in rare cases, or have refugee status.
New Zealand is carrying out a progressive reopening, which began in February and is expected to conclude in October.
The government’s strict closed-border policy, which included a very limited daily entry quota into quarantine hotels that prevented the return of many of its own nationals, dealt a heavy blow to the economy, especially the tourism sector, which before the pandemic represented almost 6 percent of gross domestic product.
The Oceanian country, whose government was applauded for its initial management of Covid-19, reported 6,726 Covid-19 cases on Monday.
It has accumulated 943,428 total cases, of which 53,839 are active, as well as 713 deaths. EFE