New Zealand delays reopening without quarantine due to omicron variant

Sydney, Australia, Dec 21 (EFE).- New Zealand reported Tuesday it is delaying its reopening plan without quarantines until the end of February due to the rapid expansion in other countries of the Covid-19 omicron variant.

The country, which has registered a low number of infections and deaths from the virus and has implemented one of the world’s toughest lockdown policies, had planned to allow free entry from quarantine to vaccinated New Zealanders and Australians from mid-January.

Chris Hipkins, Covid-19 response minister, said in a statement that the measure seeks to “stop the rapid expansion (of the omicron) that we are seeing abroad.”

“There is no doubt this is a disappointment and will alter vacation plans for many, but it is important to establish these changes today so (travelers) can consider their plans in time,” Hipkins said, adding that this policy is “absolutely necessary” to continue protecting people.

Despite the minister making no mention of travelers from the rest of the world, still expected to enter the country without quarantine from mid-April, it is assumed that these new measures will also affect previously announced plans in the long run.

New Zealand, which has vaccinated more than 90 percent of its target population with the full schedule, said it would speed up the administration of a booster dose.

“While two doses (of vaccine) are likely to give a good degree of protection against severe omicron disease, a third dose is likely to offer great protection against Covid-19 transmission and reduce the chance of further severe infections,” the minister said.

New Zealand also announced it is extending the quarantines upon entering the country from 7 to 10 days and reducing the need for a negative Covid-19 test to 48 hours before the trip.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the country has accumulated 13,495 confirmed Covid-19 cases, including 49 deaths, and announced Thursday its first case of omicron in a vaccinated traveler who tested positive in a quarantine center. EFE


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