COVID-19: Jacinda Ardern says date when tourists can return to be brought forward

New Zealand allowing tourists back into the country might not be far away, with the Government making further announcements on border restrictions this week.

A fortnight ago, the Government announced New Zealand would scrap the self-isolation requirements for New Zealanders returning from overseas who are fully vaccinated against COVID. 

Initially, the Government's reopening plan said tourists would be able to return from July but indicated late last month those timings would be reviewed due to the high number of COVID cases in the community and less risk at the border.

"This week we'll be announcing those dates and the fact that they will be coming forward," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told AM on Monday.

"Over the weekend we saw the ability to return for working visa holders so our backpackers that play such an important role in our horticulture and tourism industry, they're now able to return… they are part of our workforce.

"We've got to make sure we've got the workforce to support tourists which is one of the reasons why we brought them forward so we can get them in [the] country, get them into the jobs that need filling to prepare for tourism returning."

In the next step of the Government's reopening plan, all fully vaccinated travellers from Australia, countries that don't need visas and those who already hold valid visitor visas can re-enter New Zealand. 

"We've already said we are likely to bring the [reopening] dates forward for tourists to help accelerate our economy," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told TVNZ last week. 

The tourism industry, despite being happy about self-isolation requirements being scrapped, has long been speaking out about its concerns over more businesses going under if tourists didn't return soon. 

A tourism recovery fund has been introduced by the Government which allows firms in the worst-affected regions to access targeted funding but operators say it's only a temporary fix.