Border regulations dropped two months early . . .
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that as of July 31 at 11:59 p.m., the country’s borders will fully reopen to international travellers for the first time in more than two years. The government previously signalled changes to border restrictions would take place in October. While the border is currently open to citizens of visa waiver countries and jurisdictions, the move drops restrictions for citizens of all other countries and once again allows for international students with valid student visas to enter the country. Importantly, the change reopens visa travel to citizens of the Pacific Islands, a significant source of temporary workers and family-based tourism, and China, New Zealand’s second-largest tourism market pre-COVID.
Slow and steady reopening . . .
New Zealand is one of the last countries to retain significant pandemic-related restrictions at the border. In February this year, the country began transitioning away from its policy of Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ), the system requiring all travellers arriving in New Zealand, including New Zealand citizens, to quarantine in an approved hotel for 14 days. The following month all quarantine requirements for approved double-vaccinated travellers were dropped. MIQ was highly controversial because the supply of hotel spaces was insufficient to meet demand from travellers and led to months-long waits. In 2020, New Zealand and Australia announced a bilateral travel bubble, although the plan faced numerous pauses and delays given COVID outbreaks in both countries.
Open economy amid intense COVID wave . . .
Many businesses in New Zealand are celebrating the dropping of border restrictions, particularly in tourism, hospitality, and related sectors. But many observers are questioning why the restrictions are being lifted now when the Omicron variant is running rampant, and the country of five million inhabitants has just passed one million confirmed cases, with actual infection numbers likely double that. Daily confirmed COVID-19 infections are averaging about 8,500 per day, with daily deaths hovering around 15. By comparison, the peak number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the April 2020 wave was 84, and the daily peak of the September 2021-January 2022 Delta wave was 226 – and at those times, the borders were closed. But with nearly 95 per cent of the population aged 12 and over having received at least two vaccines and nearly 63 per cent having received a third booster, the government has deemed the time is right to open its borders to kickstart its economy.
- The Guardian: New Zealand to fully reopen borders for first time since COVID pandemic started
- New Zealand Herald: NZ just passed a million COVID cases - what comes next?
- Radio New Zealand: New Zealand border reopening fully from end of July