New Zealand to fully reopen borders and welcome back skilled workers

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand will reopen its borders to tourists from all countries in July, allowing cruise ships to return and facilitating the immigration of skilled workers as it looks to the world again after the COVID-19 pandemic. . the government said on Wednesday.

New Zealand imposed some of the strictest border controls in the world when COVID-19 first hit more than two years ago. That allowed the nation of 5 million to eliminate several virus outbreaks and boost vaccination rates before the omicron variant swept through this year.

New Zealand’s coronavirus death toll has remained well below that of nearly all other developed nations. But as the pandemic has dragged on, New Zealand’s border measures look increasingly outdated as other countries have reopened.

New Zealand has been slowly reopening, first to Australians last month and then to tourists from the US, Britain and more than 50 other countries. earlier this month. Wednesday’s announcement will allow tourists from China, India and other countries to enter from July 31.

The government said it also planned to end the need for people to take COVID-19 tests before leaving by the end of July.

But in a sign that the virus continues to disrupt daily life, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did not make the announcement in person at a business lunch in Auckland as planned, but instead spoke via video link from her residence in Wellington, where it is isolated. .

Ardern’s fiance, Clarke Gayford, tested positive for the virus on Sunday. Ardern has so far tested negative and said she has had no symptoms. New Zealand health rules require household contacts of infected people to isolate for seven days.

“Today I can announce that New Zealand fully reopens to the world by July 31, completing our reconnection work two months ahead of schedule,” Ardern said in the video link.

He said new immigration environments would make it easier for skilled workers to enter starting in July, with a new “green list” of 56 wanted professions, including doctors, nurses, engineers, plumbers, teachers and tech workers.

“This package is designed to address the urgent skills shortages created by COVID while also putting our immigration environments on a better, more sustainable footing,” Ardern said.

Before the pandemic hit, more than 3 million tourists visited each year, accounting for 20% of New Zealand’s foreign income and more than 5% of the overall economy.

Business leaders and tourism representatives welcomed the announcement.

“After two difficult years, hundreds of Kiwi ship suppliers and tour operators can begin to rebuild their businesses,” said Debbie Summers, president of the New Zealand Cruise Association.

Ardern has also been signaling plans to reopen the country with trips abroad, including a recent trip to Singapore. and japan and an upcoming trip to the United States

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