New Zealand Delays Phased Border Reopening Due to Omicron
(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand is pushing back the phased reopening of its border until the end of February due to the threat of the omicron variant.
The delay “will increase New Zealand’s overall protection and slow omicron’s eventual spread,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said Tuesday in Wellington. Previously, the government said vaccinated New Zealand citizens could return from Australia without undergoing managed isolation from Jan. 17.
“There’s no doubt this is disappointing and will upset many holiday plans, but it’s important to set these changes out clearly today so they can have time to consider those plans,” Hipkins said.
Hipkins said cabinet has agreed a range of other responses to keep omicron at bay. That includes shortening the interval between a vaccine booster shot to four months from six, and removing the self-isolation option for all international arrivals.
New Zealand’s border has been shut to foreigners since March 2020 but citizens and permanent residents have been able to return provided they undergo managed isolation. The government planned to progressively allow more people to self-isolate rather than stay in government-run hotels in order to open the nation to the world, including eventually letting vaccinated foreigners enter the country from April 30.
Hipkins said the rapid spread of omicron, particularly in Australia, has forced a rethink. The government now wants to administer more booster shots before letting more people across the border. He said more than 82% of vaccinated New Zealanders will be eligible for a third shot by the end of February.
Additional border protections will include requiring a negative pre-departure test within 48 hours of travel, down from 72 hours, and mandating all border workers to get a booster shot, Hipkins said.
Separately, the government has agreed with its advisers that it is timely to offer vaccinations to children aged 5 to 11 years, Hipkins said. About 476,000 children in that age range will be able to be vaccinated from Jan. 17, he said.
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