Covid 19: New Zealand border reopens fully allowing students and cruise ships to return

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirms the date for the full reopening of the New Zealand border. Video / NZ Herald

At midnight tonight, the New Zealand border will finally be fully open to all visitors, providing a much-needed economic boost to the education and tourism sectors as international students and cruise ships return.

After two years and four months of Covid-19-related border restrictions, the government will put in place the final stage of its “reconnection plan”, allowing visitors from visa-exempt countries to apply for a visa to enter Nova Scotia. Zeeland.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash and Immigration Minister Michael Wood announced earlier this week that the border would fully reopen at 11:59 p.m. on July 31.

Nash said while visitors from ‘key markets’ such as Australia and the United States were able to travel to New Zealand from April and showed a ‘sharp increase in arrivals’ to Kiwi shores , he expects the full reopening to properly define the tourism industry. on the road to recovery.

“Today’s change in border settings marks the final step in our reconnect strategy,” Nash said.

“This is great news for the tourism industry and economy as we approach spring and summer, with people in the northern hemisphere booking their winter vacations. We’ve heard messages optimism from tour operators who are ready to welcome back international visitors from all over the world.”

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash speaking to reporters in Parliament, Wellington.  Photo/Mark Mitchell
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash speaking to reporters in Parliament, Wellington. Photo/Mark Mitchell

Passengers on the cruise ship Ovation of the Seas, moored at Napier Port, pictured at Emerson St, Napier.  Photo / Duncan Brown
Passengers on the cruise ship Ovation of the Seas, moored at Napier Port, pictured at Emerson St, Napier. Photo / Duncan Brown

Tomorrow also marks the opening of the maritime border to cruise liners, specialist boats and pleasure craft such as ocean-going yachts.

“The return of cruise ships is another boost for local communities. Prior to the pandemic, cruise ship visits were worth more than $500 million a year, of which $356 million was spent ashore, providing a valuable economic contribution to our regions,” Nash said.

“Most cruise visits take place in the warmer months of October through April, and summer is our overall peak tourist season. That means it will be full steam ahead for the industry, which can plan with certainty for the rest of the year and beyond.”

Nash said the government’s $49 million tourism start-up fund has helped 481 businesses most affected by the border closure and enabled operators to prepare for the return of international visitors.

“Globally there is a pent-up demand for people to visit New Zealand. In January, 58% of Australians who would like to visit New Zealand wanted to come within six months of the borders opening. That number is even higher. high for our US target market, at 77% and we’re ready for them,” he said.

Institutions like Massey University will be relieved to see the return of international students to New Zealand shores.  Photo / Provided
Institutions like Massey University will be relieved to see the return of international students to New Zealand shores. Photo / Provided

Royal Caribbean's megaliner, Ovation of the Seas, the fourth largest cruise ship in the world and the largest to visit New Zealand, is heading to Auckland.  Photo/NZ Herald
Royal Caribbean’s megaliner, Ovation of the Seas, the fourth largest cruise ship in the world and the largest to visit New Zealand, is heading to Auckland. Photo/NZ Herald

Wood said changes in border settings now mean the resumption of major visa categories, including students and visitors.

People coming to New Zealand for work will primarily use the Accredited Employer Work Visa, which opened on July 4, to enter the country.

“Before the pandemic, the international education sector was worth billions of dollars to our country and education providers,” Wood said.

“While we have continued to support the sector with border exceptions during the pandemic, the full resumption of visa processing is great news for our universities, polytechnics and wananga, and schools, English language schools and training institutions. private.

“As we warmly welcome the world back to our shores, now is the perfect time to showcase New Zealand to the world.”

When Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in May

announced the reopening of the border

As of July 31, she also announced a series of immigration changes, including pathways to residency for highly skilled workers in global demand.

Ardern said the changes would help address immediate skills shortages and accelerate economic recovery from Covid-19.

The Silverseas Silver Muse cruise ship docked at Princes Wharf in downtown Auckland - a sight that has not been seen in over two years due to Covid-19 border restrictions.  Photo/NZ Herald
The Silverseas Silver Muse cruise ship docked at Princes Wharf in downtown Auckland – a sight that has not been seen in over two years due to Covid-19 border restrictions. Photo/NZ Herald

Changes to immigration settings included a streamlined immigration process and visa extensions for around 20,000 migrants already in New Zealand to ensure skilled workers stay in the country.

It also included a “green list” of more than 85 hard-to-fill positions to attract and retain skilled workers to fill skills shortages.

This involved a streamlined, tiered pathway to residency that encouraged skilled workers in the health, engineering, business and technology sectors to move to New Zealand long-term.

The green list involved 56 jobs that could go straight to residency and 29 jobs where people could apply for residency after two years.

“New Zealand is in demand and is now fully open for business,” Ardern said.

“This will be good news for families, businesses and our migrant communities. It also provides certainty and good preparation time for airlines and cruise lines planning a return to New Zealand in the spring and summer. .”

Transport Minister Michael Wood and Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson.  Photo/Mark Mitchell
Transport Minister Michael Wood and Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson. Photo/Mark Mitchell

Yet reopening our borders could see the rate of foreign-origin Covid cases in our communities quadruple – adding to the risk of another big wave of infection later this year.

In a new analysis, a team of scientists analyzed data from just over 10,400 complete genomes of the virus sequenced in New Zealand between December and mid-June.

This showed that although there was a clear pattern of virus variants and subvariants succeeding each other over time – as happened with Delta, Omicron variants of types BA.1 and BA .2, and now our wave BA. 5 – there was also a model related to border settings.

The study, published online ahead of peer review, found that an increase in the more transmissible BA.5 and BA.2.12.1 subvariants entering our communities was matched by a gradual return to levels pre-pandemic arrival rates of international travelers.

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