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New Zealand advances border opening for next month

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New Zealand has announced plans to bring forward the reopening of its border until next month.

The South Pacific country has been effectively closed to the outside world for the past two years as it enforced strict Covid-related border policies.

The news, announced this Wednesday by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, will mean that from April 13 Australians will be able to enter without the need to quarantine.

Fully vaccinated travelers from a list of around 30 visa-exempt countries, including the UK and the US, will be able to enter New Zealand from May 1 provided they show a negative Covid test. Tourists from countries that are not exempt, including India and China, will have to wait longer, unless they already have valid visitor visas.

Tourists must be vaccinated and test negative for the virus before leaving their home country and again after arriving in New Zealand.

Currently, only New Zealand citizens can leave and enter the country, but Ms Ardern said New Zealand was “ready to welcome the world”.

“We have now received guidance that it is safe to significantly advance the next stage of the work of reopening the border, bringing our tourists back,” he said Wednesday.

With the omicron variant now spreading across the country, border restrictions have become largely irrelevant.

Ardern said the move would boost the economy.

“Closing our border was one of the first actions we took to stop Covid-19 more than two years ago, and its reopening will spur our economic recovery for the rest of the year,” he said.

“I know from visiting tour operators and talking to their staff how difficult these last two years have been,” said Ms Ardern. “And not just because of the massive loss of tourism revenue, but because we lost something from which we derived a lot of our identity.”

In recent weeks, New Zealand has reported around 20,000 new virus cases each day, its largest outbreak since the pandemic began.

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