Jacinda Ardern stops press conference over vaccine question
The move comes in light of the new variant of the COVID-19 virus spreading around the world, with cases almost confirmed globally now. New Zealand’s first confirmed case of Omicron was announced yesterday, located at the Sudima Christchurch Airport MIQ facility. It came on the same day New Zealand reached 90 percent of the population fully jabbed, and Covid vaccines for kids aged 5–11 were given the green light by MedSafe.
Thousands of protesters also marched to Parliament earlier in the day, demonstrating against Covid restrictions and vaccine mandates.
New Zealanders have reacted with fury after Prime Minister Ardern indicated the emergence of the omicron Covid variant could push back the border reopening date, despite the World Health Organisation stating blanket travel bans “will not prevent” the spread.
As part of the country’s transition away from its “zero-Covid” policy, Ms Ardern initially stated that the international borders would reopen for New Zealanders on January 17.
However, the Prime Minister has confirmed the re-opening date will be subject to a review on either Jan 7 or 8 due to the emergence of the new strain.
She said: “We haven’t changed any decisions at this stage around reconnection… but I think people understand we need to review the latest details and evidence around omicron.”
The NZ PM will continue with travel restrictions
Travel restrictions has caused anger in NZ
On Thursday afternoon the first known case of omicron in New Zealand was confirmed.
In a statement from late November, the WHO warned: “Blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread [of omicron], and they place a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods.”
Sarah Romans, who took part in a ‘Grounded Kiwis’ protest outside parliament on Tuesday, protesting NZ’s border settings, travelled to Melbourne to support her daughter giving birth in July under the trans-Tasman bubble – and was not able to return for four months.
She told 7News the experience was “gruelling and upsetting”.
She added: “It really challenged my core as a Kiwi.”
Protection measures are very strict in NZ
Checks are carried out on intra-state travel
The protest submitted a petition to parliament signed by 23,000 people calling for reforms to the managed isolation and quarantine booking system.
Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope said the government was being “overly cautious”.
Speaking to AAP, he said: “They’re using an approach that has suited them well. But it’s increasingly frustrating for businesses, who are going to be at a competitive disadvantage to Australia,”
He added: “The border rethink signal has created quite a lot of uncertainty for business, which had been looking forward to the door opening on the border even just a bit.”
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Covid-19 has deeply impacted international tourism and travel
Marion Rae, a New Zealander who lives and works in Canberra, Australia’s national capital, said that the ongoing closed border had been difficult.
She said: “So far my stepmother has died and my dad is getting frail. I’d rather not miss another funeral. I’d just like to hug him,” she said.
She added: “And I last saw my son at my mum’s funeral two years ago.”
Currently, anyone wishing to enter New Zealand must be fully vaccinated and spend seven days in a managed isolation facility at their own expense of £825.
They must then quarantine for a further two days at home, released when they can produce a negative test on day nine or later.
Boosters and Vaccines are encouraged in NZ
New Zealand completely closed its border on 19 March, 2020.
It has since intermittently operated a “trans-Tasman travel bubble” with Australia.
Ninety per cent of eligible New Zealanders have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, and an additional 4.3 per cent has received a single dose.
Since the start of the outbreak, there have been 13,328 recorded cases of Covid-19.
48 people have died as a result of the virus on the islands.
Globally, there have been 272 million cases, with 5.33m death.
The US leads the death count with over 800,000 people dying from the virus.