New Zealand granted travel ban exception for “Avatar” filmmakers

New Zealand has implemented tight border restrictions in an effort to halt the spread of COVID-19 – but some exceptions have been made. “Avatar” director James Cameron and the production crew have been allowed to enter New Zealand to film the movie’s sequels.

But it was no easy feat for the crew to enter a country that is blocking almost all travelers. Cameron and producer Jon Landau landed in New Zealand at the end of May and began a 14-day “government supervised self-isolation,” according to a post on Landau’s Instagram.

In another Instagram post, the producer explained the steps their crew had to take to safely enter the country, which appeared to have completely eradicated the coronavirus earlier this month but has since seen a small number of cases among travelers entering.

“Before we left Los Angeles, we all did a strict 8-day self-isolation and each of the 31 of us traveling had a COVID-19 RT-PCR test with negative results,” Landau wrote.

“The flight New Zealand went without any hiccups and we were soon on several different buses to the hotel where we would be quarantined,” his post continued. “The check-in was done in a private room with physical distancing practiced the entire time.” From there, he said, each crew member went into a 14-day isolation – completely alone in their hotel rooms.

In mid-June, they completed the isolation period and took COVID-19 tests, which all came back negative. “Now, looking forward to joining our Kiwi crew and getting back into production,” Landau wrote.

Landau continues to use his Instagram to update fans on the production of the Avatar sequels. On June 14, they prepped for the film, and on June 15, he posted a photo of the first shot they took during filming.

New Zealand closed its borders to most foreigners in March about a week after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. According to New Zealand’s immigration department, the country is “closed to almost all travellers wanting to travel to New Zealand by either air or sea.”

It says there are two reasons exceptions might be made: the traveler qualifies as someone whom the border closure does not apply to, or “we consider that you have a critical purpose for travel while the border is closed and grant you a visa which recognises this.”

On Monday, the country extended its ban on arriving cruise ships and tightened quarantine rules, after a few recent COVID-19 cases were linked to travel, Reuters reported.

Several filmmakers have brought their productions to New Zealand, which offers film industry tax rebates, according to BBC News. In 2013, it was announced that Cameron would film three “Avatar” sequels in New Zealand, meaning $413 million will be spent in the country and hundreds of jobs would be created during production.

The New Zealand Screen Industry has created a COVID-19 Health and Safety Standard guideline to ensure that safety measures are followed during production. The country has only had 1,516 coronavirus cases and 22 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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