New Zealand on Monday reopened its borders to visitors from around 60 countries for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic over two years ago.

“New Zealand is back on the world map for international tourism and business travelers,” Tourism Minister Stuart Nash and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi announced in a joint statement.

“Today marks a milestone for visitors from our key northern hemisphere markets in the US, UK, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada and others, who can now jump on a plane to come here.”

Nash said thousands of people are expected to touch down on around 25 flights in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch on Monday.

“Today is a day to celebrate, and is a big moment in our reconnection with the world,” he said.

Monday’s reopening is part of New Zealand’s phase-wise lifting of what were some of the world’s toughest border curbs.

In the first stage, vaccinated New Zealanders and Australians were allowed to enter in February and March.

All visitors can “now travel here without isolation if they are vaccinated and do a pre-departure and arrival test for COVID-19,” according to the ministers’ statement.

At the New Zealand-US Business Summit in Auckland, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke about her government’s “six-month exercise of accelerating New Zealand’s re-entry onto the world stage.”

“New Zealand is open for business … (and) the movement of people is scaling up,” she said, adding that it was now time for the country to “shift gears.”

With travelers from several countries including China and India are still barred, Immigration Minister Faafoi said the government will keep reviewing “New Zealand’s Reconnecting strategy to see if and when it might be possible to bring forward (the) final steps.” ​​​​​​​