New Zealand eases quarantine but will not welcome tourists yet | Your money
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) – New Zealand officials said on Thursday they will gradually ease their border quarantine requirements, which have been among the strictest in the world throughout the pandemic.
But while the changes will make it easier for New Zealanders stranded abroad to return home, authorities have given no date by which tourists could be welcomed again. This change is probably still months away.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that from next month most people arriving in New Zealand are expected to spend seven days in a military-run quarantine hotel, half of the previous requirement.
He said some new arrivals from low-risk Pacific island countries may skip quarantine altogether and isolate themselves at home.
He said the new rules were an intermediate step before broader reopening measures that would be phased in once more than 90% of New Zealanders aged 12 and over are fully immunized. So far, 72% of eligible people have had both injections.
The change follows a growing outcry from New Zealanders who have tried to return home but have been unable to secure places in the quarantine system. Some have resorted to legal action.
“I recognize that there is a lot of pressure there. My message to those wishing to return to New Zealand is this: There is not much to wait now, ”said Hipkins. “And encouraging their fellow New Zealanders to get their full immunizations will help us get there faster. “
Hipkins said he expected most newcomers to be able to isolate themselves in their homes by the first quarter of next year. He said the first priority was New Zealanders and those with valid visas.
“Tourists are more of a challenge, as they don’t necessarily have a place to isolate themselves when they arrive,” Hipkins said. “But we’re going to fight our way through it all.”
Political opponents said the changes did not go far enough and that fully vaccinated travelers returning home were low risk.
Before the start of the pandemic, more than 3 million tourists visited New Zealand each year, and the industry was among the country’s main sources of foreign income.
For more than a year after the start of the pandemic, the strict quarantine system has helped New Zealand remain almost completely virus-free and allowed life to return to normal.
But an outbreak of the most contagious delta variant in Auckland more than two months ago has proved unstoppable, forcing officials to abandon their previous zero-tolerance approach in favor of a suppression strategy.
With the virus continuing to spread in Auckland, which remains stuck, border requirements had started to look outdated.
Thursday’s announcement came after officials said two people in the city of Christchurch contracted the virus after one returned from Auckland. There was no immediate evidence that the virus was spreading further in the city.
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