New Zealand to ease Covid-19 restrictions, vaccine mandates, passes

Sydney, Australia, Mar 23 (EFE).- From next month, New Zealand will scrap vaccine passes and vaccine mandates for workplaces among other easing measures following a decline in coronavirus infections linked to the highly contagious omicron variant, the country’s prime minister announced Wednesday.

“In line with the public health advisory group advice, the government will not require mandates to be in place for education, police and defense workforces and those businesses operating vaccine passes from 11:59 pm (…) Apr. 4,” Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.

“We will be continuing their use for health, aged care workers, corrections staff, and border and MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine) workers,” she added.

New Zealand also lifted the mandatory use of masks outdoors while also removing all limits on outdoor gatherings.

Indoor gathering limits have also been increased from 100 to 200.

The Labour leader’s government, which adopted among the toughest Covid-19 policies in the world with strict lockdowns and the closure of borders, will maintain its Covid-19 Protection Framework or the traffic light system.

“Our experts maintain the view that we have peaked in Auckland now, and that we should begin to see that reflected in hospitalizations soon, given the lag between the two. The view is that the rest of the country will follow Auckland, given the city was the first place to see Omicron seeded, and breakout,” Ardern said.

The country, whose government was praised for its initial management of Covid-19, reported 20,130 infections Wednesday.

It has recorded over 500,000 infections and 184 deaths since the start of the pandemic, although experts cited by Ardern said the real figure is probably about 1.7 million.

New Zealand, which registered fewer than 100 daily Covid-19 cases in January and has fully vaccinated 96 percent of the target population, saw anti-vaccine protests in front of the parliament in Wellington between February and early March.

In the middle of March, New Zealand announced it was moving the entry frame for tourists from countries that don’t need a visa from October to May. EFE


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