New Zealand has opened its international borders to fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents travelling from Australia, 246 days after hitting pause on the trans-Tasman bubble.
The move marks the start of the country’s phased reopening which is expected to see Aussies allowed to cross the ditch exemption free by July and all other international tourists from October.
Air New Zealand scheduled five flights arriving from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, with the first service arriving from Sydney into Auckland at 5:15pm this afternoon.
Those allowed to enter will need to provide evidence of a negative PCR test 48 hours before departure or a supervised RAT or LAMP test 24 hours before departure and must complete a period of home isolation upon arrival into New Zealand.
There are more than 500,000 New Zealanders based in Australia, according to 7 News, many of whom have been unable to see family and friends face to face without special permission for years.
“Emotions will be running high today as New Zealand citizens and permanent residents who have been waiting to come home from Aussie board their flight,” Air New Zealand chief customer and sales officer Leanne Geraghty said.
“Having the certainty they will be touching down on home soil and reuniting with friends and whānau in just a few short hours will come as a relief.
“This day signals the first step in reconnecting New Zealand with the world. We are incredibly humbled to play a small part in such a special day for many Kiwis and look forward to reuniting more families with Aotearoa over the coming months.
“We expect to have more than 300 flights available between New Zealand and Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and the Gold Coast for the month of March alone.
“Once we have a clearer view as to the level of demand, we will adjust the schedule accordingly, but we’re confident there will be seats available.”
New Zealand is facing an influx in COVID case numbers as Omicron continues to spread throughout the country.
Today alone New Zealand recorded 14,633 new community cases.
Image source: Ministry of Justice of New Zealand