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New Zealand introduces new Covid regulations amid Omicron outbreaks


In New Zealand, after nine cases of the omicron variant were discovered in a single family that went to Auckland for a wedding earlier this month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced new COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday.

The “red setting” of the country’s pandemic response includes more stringent measures such as mask requirements and gathering limitations, which will take effect on Monday.

“Red is not lockdown,” Ardern emphasised, noting that businesses may continue to operate and that people can visit family and friends and travel freely across the nation.

“Our plan for addressing omicron infections in the early stages remains the same as delta,” Ardern told reporters in Wellington on Sunday. “We will promptly test, contact trace, and isolate cases and contacts in order to slow the spread.” New Zealand had been one of the few countries to have escaped any outbreaks of the omicron version, but Ardern admitted last week that given the variation’s high transmissibility, an epidemic was unavoidable.

With an average of around 20 new cases per day, the country has managed to restrict the spread of the delta form. However, it has seen an increase in the number of people contaminated with omicron arriving in the nation and being placed in obligatory quarantine.

This has put a burden on the quarantine system, prompting the government to restrict entry for returning nationals while it considers what to do about reopening the country’s borders, distressing many New Zealanders who want to return.

Approximately 93 percent of New Zealand citizens aged 12 and up are completely vaccinated, with 52 percent having received a booster dose. The country has only recently began immunising youngsters from 5 to 11 years old.

While in Auckland, the family from Nelson-Marlborough attended a wedding and other parties, and Ardern estimated that they came into contact with “far over 100 people at various events.”

“This suggests that omicron is already circulating in Auckland and, if not elsewhere, the Nelson-Marlborough region,” she noted.


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