Coronavirus: World reacts to New Zealand's border reopening

Some of the world's media says New Zealand's "fortress" status is ending now the border will open to Australians from April 12 and visa waiver tourists from May 1.

Tourists will still need to be fully vaccinated, be required to submit a pre-departure test before their flight, and will be asked to self-isolate according to the Government's rules if they test positive for COVID-19 in New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promises tourists will be well cared for if they test positive for COVID-19, and says they will be given a care pack on arrival with two rapid antigen tests included that they must take during their stay.

There are dozens of visa waiver countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

The South China Morning Post described New Zealand's border reopening as an end to "fortress-level curbs".

"So-called 'Fortress New Zealand' largely succeeded in keeping COVID-19 at bay – until the arrival of the highly infectious Omicron variant, which is now spreading rapidly through the population," it says.

"The end of border restrictions will be a boost for the tourism industry – once the nation's biggest export earner – which has been decimated by the two-year absence of foreign visitors."

Bloomberg also said New Zealand is ending its "'fortress' settings" that kept COVID-19 out. It also said that Aotearoa is ready to welcome the world back.

Trans-Tasman travellers have historically made up 40 percent of our international arrivals, with around 1.5 million Australians visiting each year.

"While we know it will take some time to see tourism scale up again, today's announcement will be a welcome boost for our tourism operators who have done it harder than many over the last two years," Ardern said on Wednesday. 

"In a world still battling COVID-19, travellers will be discerning about where they go in the short term. Our strong health response including the lowest death rate in the OECD over the past two years and our high rates of vaccination, alongside our reputation as a beautiful place to visit, will be an asset in this market."

The New York Times says the border reopening comes as New Zealand tries to boost its economic recovery

"The Government had intended to allow tourists back starting in July, with a full reopening planned for October. But after an outbreak of the Omicron variant sent cases in the country surging to more than 20,000 per day, tourism operators and businesses pushed to bring forward that timeline," its report says.

"They argued that borders should remain closed to try to keep the variant out because of its prevalence around the globe."

It goes on to say that New Zealand's zero-COVID policy, while keeping cases, hospitalisations, and deaths among the lowest in the world, "crippled" the international tourism sector.

"Some companies say revenues have plunged by 95 percent since the pandemic began, while others have had to target the less lucrative domestic market."

Coronavirus: World reacts to New Zealand's border reopening
Photo credit: Getty Images

Dean Long, CEO of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, told Australian newspaper The New Daily that whether tourists will cross the Tasman comes down to the details of the border reopening.

"The biggest reason why people travel to New Zealand isn't primarily for leisure – it is visiting friends and relatives," he says.

"But there are some really critical leisure aspects that work for Australians going to New Zealand, and that's primarily around their ski season.

"So it is a really important time to open that border for Australians to go and ski in New Zealand."

The BBC says that New Zealand has ended its "COVID lockout". It says that while our "tough lockdowns and virtual isolation" helped us get a reputation as a "COVID success story", transmission rates have now soared.

"Many Kiwis are struggling to grasp how their country has gone from fewer than 1000 cases a day to more than 20,000 daily infections in just a couple of weeks. Ms Ardern had pursued an elimination strategy until October last year," its report says.

"But New Zealand now has a 95 percent vaccination rate in the eligible population. It has recorded 115 Covid deaths since the pandemic began."

Ardern says unvaccinated travellers will eventually be welcomed to New Zealand, but "we haven't made those decisions today".