Sydney, Australia, March 16 (EFE).- After two years of maintaining some of the strictest border closures in the world to contain the spread of Covid-19, New Zealand’s government announced Wednesday it will bring forward the country’s reopening to tourists, starting next month.
From Apr. 13, Australian tourists, who represented 40 percent of arrivals before the pandemic, will be able to enter the country.
From May 2, the country will welcome tourists from nations with visa-free agreements, such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, Germany, South Korea and Singapore, as well as those with valid visitor visas.
“Closing our border was one of the first actions we took to stop Covid-19 two years ago. It did the job we needed. But now that we’re highly vaccinated and predicted to be off our Omicron peak, it’s now safe to open up,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.
Tourists will be able to enter without self-isolation or quarantine periods, but must be fully vaccinated and undergo Covid tests before and after arrival.
New Zealand sealed its borders shut to arrivals in March 2020 and even largely prevented the return of many of its citizens by imposing a lottery system to fill a limited entry quota in order to prevent the virus and its various strains from entering and spreading throughout the country.
At the beginning of February, the authorities announced a five-stage reopening plan that began on Feb. 28 by allowing in New Zealanders coming from Australia, and that concludes with all visa categories in October, a date that has not yet been modified.
The reopening coincides with record numbers of daily Omicron cases, which have not translated into a large increase in deaths. Until this year, New Zealand spent the majority of the pandemic virtually Covid-free by stamping out outbreaks early.
New Zealand, which recorded less than 100 cases of Covid-19 in January and has double vaccinated 96 percent of the target population, reported 21,633 new infections on Wednesday for a total of 399,342 cases, including 102 deaths, since the beginning of the pandemic.
Despite the high rate of vaccination, for around three weeks until the beginning of March, thousands of demonstrators camped in front of parliament to protest against vaccination mandates in some labor sectors. EFE