New Zealand border reopening delayed amid omicron spread

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New Zealand announced Tuesday that it will be delaying its phased border reopening that was scheduled to begin gradually in January because of concerns surrounding the omicron variant of COVID-19, according to reports.

The country has had some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the world, but the country was set to finally reopen to foreign tourists in April 2022.

Australians will now not be able to travel to New Zealand until the end of February without quarantining. They previously were to be able to do so in January.

“All of the evidence so far points to omicron being the most transmissible COVID-19 variant yet. 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,” COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said, reports Reuters.

Air New Zealand said that it will now have to cancel about 120 scheduled services through February due to the postponement in reopening plans, which will impact about 27,000 travelers. 

“It’s unfortunately not a case of if [omicron spreads in New Zealand] but when. … It’s so easily spread. So we are doing everything we can to make sure we are prepared,” Prime Minister Jacinda Arden said on a Facebook Live statement, Reuters notes. 

The country has currently seen 22 reported cases of the omicron variant, according to Reuters. 

New Zealand also announced Tuesday that the country will be decreasing the time between a second vaccine dose and a booster shot from six to four months, The Associated Press reported. This new booster schedule will set about 80 percent of New Zealanders up for booster eligibility by February. 

Tags COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand Government of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern Jacinda Ardern New Zealand omicron SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant Wellington

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