The island nation imposed severe restrictions on its borders at the start of the pandemic: it banned tourists from its territory and forced returning New Zealanders to spend two weeks in a military quarantine lodge. Occasionally, hotel seats ran out, so citizens wanting to go home had to wait months to go home.
In the first year and a half of the pandemic, closing borders was seen as vital to preventing infection. However, the outbreak continued into August, prompting New Zealand to review its strategy to completely eradicate the virus in October. In addition, the vaccination rate is increasing, making it increasingly difficult to justify closing borders. Chris Hepkins, the minister responsible for tackling the pandemic, stressed that the government had had to make difficult decisions to secure New Zealand’s residents.
“We admit it was very difficult,” Hepkins said. “Family members separated. People had to pull themselves together as they didn’t want to stay any longer.”
We are well aware of the impact these restrictions have on people’s lives and livelihoods
he added. According to the government’s plans, those who cross the border will be quarantined, but only for seven days. New Zealanders who have been fully vaccinated will be able to return home from Australia from January 16 and from other countries after February 13 without being quarantined. From April 30, the borders will be open to tourists. At the same time, New Zealand decided to remove Indonesia, India and Brazil from the list of high-risk countries.
The Wellington government announced this week that nightclubs, restaurants and gyms in Auckland can open from December 2. This is the end of the precautionary measures that were put in place in August in the country’s largest city.
At the same time, a new chapter in New Zealand’s epidemiological management begins: from now on, everything – even a haircut – requires a vaccination certificate.
69 per cent of New Zealand’s population is vaccinated against the coronavirus. 84 percent of those over 12 years of age were vaccinated. Forty people in the country have died from the coronavirus since the outbreak began.
Cover Photo: Getty Images