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Tears and chocolates as New Zealand opens its borders to 60 more countries

/ 01:48 PM May 02, 2022
Tears and chocolates as New Zealand opens its borders to 60 more countries

People hug in the arrivals area at the Auckland Airport, as Australians started arriving after the country opened its borders to travellers from its neighboring nation for the first time since mid-2021, in Auckland, New Zealand, April 13, 2022 in this still image taken from a video.  REUTERS FILE PHOTO

WELLINGTON — New Zealand welcomed thousands of travelers from around the globe on Wednesday as the country opened its borders to visitors from around 60 nations including the United States, Britain and Singapore for the first time since COVID-19 hit in early 2020.

Maori cultural performers sang songs at the arrivals gate in Auckland and travelers were handed popular locally made chocolate bars as the first flights came in from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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Friends and family hugged and cried as people were reunited for what was for some the first time in more than two years.

Garth Halliday, who was waiting at the airport for his son, daughter-in-law and grandson to land from London, told local media it made him happy and emotional to see so many families reunited.

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New Zealand had some of the toughest curbs in the world during the pandemic and only recently started to ease the increasingly unpopular measures, hoping to boost tourism and ease labour shortages now the Omicron variant is widespread domestically.

Borders were opened to New Zealanders and Australians in February and March. Now visitors from around 60 visa-waiver countries can enter as long as they are vaccinated and test negative for COVID. There are no requirements for isolation.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told attendees at the U.S. Business Summit in Auckland that overseas visitors will really “bring back a piece that has been missing from New Zealand and New Zealanders.”

On Monday, 43 international flights were scheduled to arrive or depart from Auckland International Airport carrying around 9,000 passengers.

Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty said demand had exceeded expectations with many of the services filling up.

“This is welcome news for the New Zealand tourism industry who has weathered a difficult storm,” she said.

Tourists from a number of countries including India and China continue to be barred with restrictions for them not being lifted until October.

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With hugs, tears and Maori performers, New Zealand welcomes Australian visitors as curbs ease

New Zealand lifts most vaccine mandate as Omicron outbreak nears peak

New Zealand to reopen borders earlier than planned

New Zealand’s Ardern signals mandates will ease after Omicron peaks

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