New Zealand, a Pandemic Success Story, Unveils Reopening Strategy
New Zealand, which stands out in the world for its success in the fight against the coronavirus, unveiled a cautious plan to reopen on Thursday, promising to keep its goal of zero cases of coronavirus even as it begins to unseal its borders .
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand’s border restrictions would ease from early next year, allowing vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries to enter without having to get in. quarantine. The country’s borders have been closed to almost all foreign travelers since March 2020.
In a new program starting in October, vaccinated New Zealanders returning to the country could also self-isolate at home and avoid the 14-day hotel quarantine that is currently required.
Ms Ardern, however, warned that the country’s borders would not revert to their pre-pandemic standard, when passengers were not subject to vaccination or testing requirements.
“Just like after September 11, the border will never be the same after Covid,” she said. “Things can change, but that doesn’t mean we can’t adjust to it in a way that will eventually return to normal.”
New Zealand, a geographically isolated country with a population of around five million, has been a rare success during the pandemic, reporting just 2,905 cases and 26 deaths from the virus, according to a New York database Times.
In addition to closing its borders earlier, New Zealand has put in place one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, allowing it to limit the spread of the virus. It has since removed almost all restrictions, responding to rare outbreaks with strict localized lockdowns and highly sophisticated contact tracing.
The country’s harsh approach has put it at odds with many of its closest allies, who have suffered much worse toll during the pandemic. Australia, which until recently pursued a comparable ‘Covid-zero’ strategy, is now grappling with an increase in cases of the Delta variant, which has prompted New Zealand to indefinitely suspend non-quarantine travel between two countries.
“If we abandon our elimination approach too early, there is no going back,” Ms Ardern said at a press conference. “We might see significant breakouts here, as are some overseas countries that opened up early in their vaccination rollout.”
New Zealand itself is relatively early in its vaccination campaign, which only uses the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and lags behind those of other wealthy countries. About 29 percent of adults have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, while 17 percent are fully immunized. The country intends to speed up its deployment in the coming weeks, with all residents over the age of 16 allowed to make an appointment from September 1.
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