“I cried when I found out I could go home,” said Tracey Malee, a New Zealand mother of two who has lived in Bohola, County Mayo since 2008.
His joy follows confirmation today that vaccinated New Zealanders living in Europe can return to their home countries from February 13.
âWhile I’m not happy that I can’t go for Christmas, I’m so relieved to be able to go home soon,â she added.
Tracey’s daughter Ruby Mae, three months old, has yet to meet her grandparents and she is thrilled it could happen as early as February.
“I just want to come home,” said the New Zealander, whose parents are now over 70.
Tracey has other relatives and friends back home that she can’t wait to see, too. In addition to presenting his little girl, they will all reunite with Summer, his eldest three and a half years.
She was so excited that she called the travel agent at 9 a.m. this morning as soon as she realized the announcement had been made.
âI basically have flights on hold,â said Tracey, whose husband is Irish.
What if something happened to my parents and they didn’t meet my daughter? I just found it very difficult to accept.
Before the pandemic, she returned home every Christmas for at least two weeks and hoped to return next month before it became clear that New Zealand’s borders would remain closed.
âIt was really difficult to manage,â she said. “Really upsetting. I just couldn’t agree to our country effectively denying us the right to enter, which it is.”
The New Zealand government’s decision to effectively close its borders on March 14, 2020, when the pandemic hit the world, led to what Tracey describes as a “people abroad versus people in New Zealand” situation. .
Like many of her compatriots who were eager to travel, she repeatedly tried to enter a so-called “managed isolation slot” or MIQ each time they were released.
Other Ireland-based New Zealanders reached out to RTÃ to say they were also unable to book a quarantine slot, even when their trip was critical – due to a parent’s terminal illness.
“There was something like 20,000 people in the queue each time, so for me that doesn’t allow a citizen to enter the country and I just don’t think that’s acceptable,” Tracey said.
âWhat if something happened to my parents and they didn’t meet my daughter? I just found it very hard to accept.
“Imagine if the Irish couldn’t get into Ireland, the uproar there would be, I mean it just wouldn’t happen,” she added. “So why has this happened to us Kiwis overseas for so long?” “
Olivia Stewart, 26, moved from New Zealand to Ireland to be with boyfriend Ciaran in December 2019, unaware that she would be spending much of her time here in detention.
She struggled to find work and meet new friends, but was unable to return home.
“I moved here just before Christmas in 2019. My partner is Irish and we had been living together in New Zealand for about five years when we got to a point where we were looking for a fresh start.”
When Covid struck, she said it was very difficult to find work in Dublin as companies tried to cut costs.
âI’ve kind of been in and out of a lot of jobs. It’s been tough,â Olivia said.
After working for an optician in Auckland, she took advantage of her free time to undertake a complete career change.
Olivia is now studying early childhood here in Ireland. She hopes to become a kindergarten teacher upon graduation.
Having planned to see her parents just six months after moving here in July 2020, she also now really hopes to see them again on New Years but has yet to book a flight.
“I’m delighted to hear the news. I still had a little bit of doubt inside of me. With Covid, nothing is ever solid,” she said.
Her friends are getting married in New Zealand in April and she would love to go home for that.
Although as part of the new lifting of restrictions, it could be April 30 next year before fully vaccinated international travelers – like his partner Ciaran – are allowed into the country.
The idea of ââgoing back down there and being in confinement would not be pleasant.
âMy partner and I are part of the wedding party and it would be so nice to come back and see family and friends. My grandpa turned 96 last week so as soon as I can go back I will. really will, âOlivia added.
Another problem for potential travelers is that flights should remain prohibitive in most cases:
âI’m sure the cost will probably be outrageous,â Olivia said. âThe good thing, however, is that you don’t have to pay for the quarantine at the hotel.
“It was around â¬ 5,000 per person, if I remember correctly. That’s a huge reason we didn’t go to visit.”
Travelers will be required to self-isolate for seven days upon arrival in New Zealand.
Michael Houghton moved to Limerick from Auckland in 2011. He has three children who have only visited New Zealand a few times, with the last big family trip being in 2017.
He welcomes the opportunity to return home again and hopes to do so within the next 12 months, but added that traveling with children while Covid is still there would not be ideal.
“The thought of going back down there and being in a lockdown situation wouldn’t be pleasant.”
He said that speaking to his family and friends, New Zealand is in some ways where Ireland was 12 months ago in the pandemic and will face many challenges as it grows. ‘will finally open.
âWearing masks for us was quite difficult at first and felt weird, but now if we walked into a store without a mask, most would feel almost naked. “
Olivia agreed, saying many Kiwis experienced the pandemic differently.
âObviously, at its height, when we were locked up, New Zealanders were walking around and going to concerts and restaurants.
“I was a little frustrated because my family and friends didn’t really understand the big picture here.”
Travelers from neighboring Australia will begin arriving in New Zealand on January 16 as part of the phased reopening approach.
But it will be another five months before the country with some of the strictest border controls during the pandemic finally begins to reopen to the world.