New Zealand has announced that most fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed entry at the end of April without a mandatory hotel quarantine, after enduring one of the world’s longest lockdowns.
There will be restrictions for those entering the country next year, including a seven-day home isolation duration as well as tests upon arrival and departure.
Starting Jan. 16 fully vaccinated New Zealanders and holders of a valid visa will be able to travel from Australia starting from Feb. 13. From April 30 foreign nationals will be able to travel.
International arrivals do not appear to pose any additional risks to the community, as experts have been questioning whether quarantining new arrivals is necessary when the virus is already in the community.
The hotel quarantine system in New Zealand has not tested positive for travelers from Australia, for example, back from Aug. 23.
In New Zealand, 84 percent of the population over the age of 12 is fully immunized against the Coronavirus.
Observers from the country’s tourism industry, which has been inundated with foreign visitors since the long absences began, have decried the requirement for a seven-day period of isolation.
Since August, when a Delta infection outbreak erupted in Auckland, which ended the country’s “zero Covid” approach and New Zealand has been on edge since then.
“It’s very encouraging that we as a country are now in a position to move towards greater normality,” Pandemic Response Minister Chris Hipkins said at a news conference on Wednesday.
“I do want to emphasize, though, that travel in 2022 won’t necessarily be exactly the same as it was in pre-2020 travel.”
In New Zealand, citizens and permanent residents have been subjected to a lottery system for over a year, locking them out of the country and causing a large backlog.
People wanting to return home from overseas and reunite with their families have challenged the system through legal means.
As well as to provide time for airlines to plan, he said, New Zealand is waiting until April to launch its new “traffic light” pandemic management system starting Dec. 2.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced at a news conference on Monday that the new system will end lockdowns and place significant restrictions on the unvaccinated.
Auckland, where New Zealand’s outbreak is concentrated, will reopen its borders to the rest of the country on Dec. 15.
The tourism industry in New Zealand employed nearly 230,000 people and contributed $30.2 billion to its economy before the pandemic.
Between 2018 and 2019, about 3.8 million visitors came into th country from abroad, primarily from Australia.
Although domestic tourism has surged during the closure of borders, the industry is having difficulty recovering its losses since foreign tourists spend approximately three times more than domestic tourists.
Hipkins defended New Zealand’s caution by pointing to the new virus wave hitting Europe.
“As we move into 2022, we know that the pandemic is not over,” he asserted.
“It’s not going to suddenly end, and we only need to look at Europe to know that the path out of the pandemic is not a straightforward one.”