Tearful reunions at New Zealand airports after travel bans lifted

This is the heartwarming moment people were finally able to reunite with family and friends in New Zealand as strict Covid laws were eased.

After a lockdown of more than two years, the island country reopened its borders to international visitors from Britain, the United States, Canada, Japan and 50 other nations.

Footage from international airports show emotional embraces and travellers being welcomed with traditional Māori songs and dances.

At Auckland Airport, flights bringing in tourists began landing early in the morning from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Brit Garth Halliday, who has been living in New Zealand for the past 30 years, said he and his wife were at the airport to welcome their son, daughter-in-law and 18-month-old grandson.

‘The older you get, the more family becomes important and I’m getting old,’ he told the BBC. ‘We’ve got three generations all together now.’

David Benson travelled from Cincinnati, Ohio, to be with his partner after waiting for a visa since February 2020.

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He said: ‘I’m finally here today. I’ve never been within 6,000 miles of this country and my first time here. I’m home. It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had.’

They were some of the first foreigners, other than Australians, to set foot in New Zealand since March 2020, when the government sealed its borders.

Most tourists from India, China and other non visa-waiver countries are still blocked from entering.

Those hoping to visit will have to be fully vaccinated and test negative for Covid after arriving.

The border reopening will help boost tourism ahead of New Zealand’s upcoming ski season.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern said more than 90,000 people had booked flights in the seven weeks since the reopening was announced, with 21 flights landing in Auckland today.

‘Our tourism industry have felt the effects of the global pandemic acutely and are working hard to prepare,’ Ms Ardern said, adding there were no immediate plans to ease virus testing and vaccination requirements for tourists.

‘Today is a day to celebrate, and is a big moment in our reconnection with the world,’ tourism minister Stuart Nash also said.

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