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New Zealand fully reopens borders after prolonged pandemic shutdown

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Tourism in New Zealand suffered a major setback when the country’s borders were closed in March 2020

New Zealand’s borders are fully open for the first time since March 2020, when they were closed in an effort to keep out Covid-19.

Immigration officials will now start accepting visa holders and those with student visas again.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it a “huge moment”, saying it was part of a “cautious process”.

Most visitors will still need to be fully vaccinated, but there are no quarantine requirements.

The country’s maritime border has also reopened, with cruise ships and foreign recreational boats now allowed to dock.

New Zealand first announced plans for a phased reopening in February. It allowed vaccinated citizens to return from Australia that month, and those from elsewhere to return in March.

In May, it started welcoming tourists from more than 50 countries on the visa-exempt list.

“We, along with the rest of the world, continue to manage a very live global pandemic while keeping our people safe,” Ms Ardern said in a speech at the China Business Summit in Auckland on Monday.

“But keeping people safe also brings income and well-being.”

Tourism was one of the industries hardest hit by New Zealand’s strict COVID measures.

In the year ending March 2021, the industry’s contribution to GDP declined to 2.9%, from 5.5% a year earlier.

International tourism in particular took a big hit, with a decline of 91.5% – or NZ$16.2bn ($10.2bn; £8.4bn) – to NZ$1.5bn, according to official figures.

The number of people directly employed in tourism also declined by more than 72,000 during this period.

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