The New Zealand government on Thursday approved an exception class for 1,000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began.

The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021.

Photo taken on Jan. 13, 2021 shows the hall of Wellington International Airport, Wellington, New Zealand. The New Zealand government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Tuesday. Image: Xinhua

“Our top priority continues to be the health, safety and wellbeing of all people in New Zealand,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement.

“The need to carefully manage our borders is as critical now as at any time in the past nine months. We continue to learn more about the virus and adapt accordingly with stronger and more tailored border protections, depending on risk,” Hipkins said.

The returning students are to support New Zealand’s economic recovery, he said.

“This border exception delivers on a part of the recovery plan for international education. It underscores the government’s commitment to the international education sector, which is important in the country’s long-term economic recovery from COVID-19,” the minister said.

FILE PHOTO: Auckland, New Zealand. Image: Xinhua

The students will return to New Zealand in phases, beginning with a cohort of 300 that will be able to return from April, with the remaining students returning throughout the year as managed isolation availability allows, he said.

“The return of these students will not affect the ability of Kiwis to return home and it is balanced against the requirement for skilled workers to enter the country,” he added.

They will be subject to the same border rules and quarantine regime as all other arrivals, with any additional restrictions depending on where they come from, Hipkins said.

The annual economic value of this group of 1,000 degree-level international students is estimated to be roughly at 49 million NZ dollars (35 million U.S. dollars) in wider economic contribution, including approximately 27 million NZ dollars in tuition fees, statistics showed.

XINHUA | WELLINGTON

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