New Zealand opened its borders to tourists Monday for the first time in more than two years after officials lifted most of the COVID 19 restrictions.
Prior to the Pandemic, New Zealand welcomed more than 3 million tourists each year, making up 20% of the country's foreign income and more than 5% of its economy as a whole.
New Zealand imposed some of the world's strictest border policies in order to mitigate the spread of COVID 19 during the start of the pandemic in early 2020, preventing all international travelers from entering the country.
The border restrictions stayed in place as New Zealand officials initially committed to an elimination strategy in early 2020 despite the country suffering just over 100 cases and no deaths at the time.
The easing of travel restrictions comes as more than 80% of the country's 5 million residents have been vaccinated against the coronaviruses.
Tourists must be vaccinated and be required to test for COVID 19 before and after arriving.
Today is a day to celebrate and is a big moment in our reconnection with the world, according to Stuart Nash, Tourism Minister.
Three weeks ago, New Zealand opened its borders to tourists from Australia. The country lifted restrictions for about 60 visa-waiver countries on Monday. Most tourists from China and other non-waiver countries are not allowed to visit the country.
In the past seven weeks, more than 90,000 people had booked flights to New Zealand, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Our tourism industry has been affected deeply by the global pandemic and are working hard to prepare, according to Ardern.
The prime minister said there was no immediate plans to change the COVID- 19 vaccination and testing requirements for visitors.