THere were tears of joy, long hugs and sighs of relief as thousands of New Zealanders boarded flights or hit the road on Wednesday, in what was, for many, the first reunion with friends and family in four months.
The wider Auckland region was closed in August when the city tried to contain a Covid-19 outbreak. In November, the government announced that it would relax the border as of December 15 to allow people to travel, as the eligible population is approaching 90% of the double vaccination rate.
At midnight, highway checkpoints on the outskirts of the city were removed and queues of cars, some with boats and trailers attached, were given the green light. On Wednesday morning, airport terminals across the country were filled with Aucklanders eager to leave and be reunited with their loved ones.
Some 12,000 people were expected to leave Auckland on Wednesday. It will usher in a 4,000% increase in movement through the airport during the summer period, the airport said.
MC Slave, the MC for Fat Freddy’s Drop, who was at Auckland Airport en route to Wellington, said Things it was like “flying again for the first time.”
Simon Giles, who had been separated from his wife, Lynda Thwaites, for confinement, was waiting for her in Queenstown with a bouquet of homegrown red roses that he had pruned himself, Stuff said.
The couple hugged when they reunited Wednesday morning, vowing never to be apart for that long again. “He has done a great job [with the roses]Thwaites said.
Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult was at the airport to greet the first cohort of arrivals from Auckland. “It’s a bit decisive for us to see the Aucklanders return. [They] they are an important part of our tourism industry. It was a bit of a celebration and it was nice to see people reconnect with their families again. “
Boult watched as families and couples waved and greeted each other. “Anyone who walked into the terminal realized that it was a special day.”
The mayor hoped that the day would usher in a massive increase in economic activity, while still being Covid-free.
Domestic travel decreased from 23,000 passengers entering and leaving Auckland Airport each day, to about 600 passengers a day while the restrictions were in effect.
Auckland residents wishing to leave the city must be doubly vaccinated or, if not vaccinated, produce a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of their departure. Vaccine passports will be required to board flights and ferries. The police will carry out spot checks on the roads, and anyone caught breaking the rules could be fined NZ $ 1,000 (£ 509). These rules will be in effect during the main summer term, until January 17.
In Christchurch, therapy dogs will be available from Thursday to greet the influx of Auckland travelers. The period just before Christmas was expected to be the busiest time at the airport.
“On the 23rd, we will have about 19,000 passengers through the domestic terminal,” Justin Watson. “That number does not include travelers’ friends and family, so the terminal will be full!
“Traveling to be with your loved ones is very special, but some people will be a little anxious. That is why we will have New Zealand’s first “airpawt ambassadors” on duty. Our PAWS (Pups Assisting With Stress) program is working with St John to have therapy dogs in the terminal for cuddling, cuddling and paw-fives.
In Northland, there was a slow but steady arrival of Auckland residents, said Te Tai Tokerau border control leader Hone Harawira. TVNZ.
The iwi (tribe) checkpoints were established together with the police, to help protect the community, which has the lowest vaccination rate in the country.
“As far as I know, maybe less than half a dozen have turned around here and we’ve probably had thousands already,” Harawira said, speaking from Waipū.
Harawira said the checkpoints are not about keeping Auckland residents out, but about keeping Northland safe. “It’s about making sure that those who come don’t have an adverse impact on our population.”
New Zealand has so far reported around 12,698 Covid cases since the start of the pandemic, with 9,890 of those from the current outbreak. There have been 47 deaths of people with Covid-19. Its international borders will likely reopen to the rest of the world in 2022.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism