The borders of New Zealand have been completely reopened with the abolition of the latest Covid restrictions

The borders of New Zealand have been completely reopened with the abolition of the latest Covid restrictions

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<p><figcaption class=Photograph: Fiona Goodall / Getty Images

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

The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the nation was “open for business” after the final phase of the gradual reopening, which began in April, was completed on Sunday night.

Visitors from all over the world will be re-admitted to New Zealand, including maritime arrivals, those with student visas and those from visa-free countries, such as China and India.

Ardern said the reopening was “a huge moment” in a speech at the China Business Summit on Monday morning.

“It has been a gradual and cautious process on our part since February as we, along with the rest of the world, continue to manage a very lively global pandemic while keeping our people safe,” he said.

Related: ‘Lots of happy tears’: joy as New Zealand opens the border after two years of isolation

“New Zealanders are hosts. Manaakitanga [hospitality] flows through our veins and we open our arms to tourists and students, including from China, which before 2020 was New Zealand’s largest source of international students and second largest source of tourists.

“For those who wish to make their journey here, haere mai, we welcome you.”

Foreign cruise ships and yachts will also be able to dock in the country’s ports. Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said the return of cruise ships – whose guests spent NZ $ 365 million ashore a year before the pandemic – would be a big boost for local economies.

“Most cruise visits take place during the warmer months of October to April … It will go full steam ahead for the industry, which can confidently plan for the rest of the year and beyond,” Nash said in a note.

Tour operators, businesses and education service providers have welcomed the news, despite Immigration New Zealand’s predictions that visitors are more likely to drip, rather than flood, in the coming months.

“I think it’s safe to say that we don’t expect the same level of demand we saw before Covid. This is likely for a variety of reasons, ”Immigration New Zealand’s Simon Sanders told national broadcaster RNZ.

“We know that China, which is a larger country requiring a tourist visa, is still subject to a number of travel restrictions, so we don’t expect a big demand from there, at least initially.”

He encouraged students who have offers to study to apply for visas immediately and urged those who intend to study in 2023 to hold out for a couple of months “so we can ensure that those who have to arrive this year will be able to do so”.

The full reopening comes at the same time that New Zealand is among the top seven countries in the world for average daily confirmed Covid cases per 100,000 people, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

A University of Auckland study released last week warned that reopening the border could see cases of foreign-born Covid-19 jump fourfold – and that could further strain the already creaky health system.

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