Travelers from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and more than 50 other places arrived in New Zealand yesterday, marking the first international visitors to the country in more than two years.

New Zealand's foreign airports have been deserted since March 2020, when the country immediately shut the border to prohibit COVID-19 from entering.

As part of the government's extensive reopening strategy, the airport resumed yesterday morning to vaccinated travelers from roughly 60 visa-waiver countries.

The first passengers and returning New Zealanders arrived at Auckland international airport immediately after 6 a.m. from Los Angeles, followed by an aircraft from San Francisco.

According to reports, this couple gasped as their son came with his wife and child, whom they hadn't seen in almost a year. The mother compared the heartbreaking airport scenes to those in the movie, describing the reunion as "dramatic."

Through cries, an American tourist said that she had wanted to come to New Zealand for a long time. "I've finally arrived. It's incredible," the tourist exclaimed.

If a pre-departure COVID-19 screening is negative, foreign travelers who have been vaccinated can visit New Zealand. They must self-test for coronavirus upon landing, but there is no need to quarantine or self-isolate except if the result is positive.

Only if the government determines it is safe to visit New Zealand, all other foreign visitors will be able to enter the country starting in October.

Stuart Nash, the tourism minister, who handed out Whittaker's peanut desserts to arriving passengers, said the reconnection brought a tear to his eye.

"Family members and friends haven't seen one other in a long, long time," Nash remarked. "Certainly, we have global business individuals who are ready to reconnect and who are returning."

While the country is still not back to its normal state, Nash believes the resumption is a move in the right direction.

Every week, more than 30,000 individuals enter the country, an upsurge from earlier in the outbreak but still much below pre-Covid levels of around 25,000 people per day.

Carrie Hurihanganui, the chief executive of Auckland Airport, estimated 9,000 people would arrive and leave on 43 international aircraft on Monday, up from 3,000 in March. She said the airport had added 40 new employees and would remain to do so in the following months. 

The majority of visitors from India, China, and other non-waiver nations are still denied entry.