CategoryNew Zealand

‘Lots of happy tears’: joy as New Zealand opens border after two years of isolation

Tears, hugs, laughter and the shouts of children echoed through the arrivals halls of New Zealand, as the country opened its borders and lifted isolation requirements.

“I’ve been waiting six months for this moment,” says Steve, 72, who was waiting for his fiancee, Karin, to arrive from Australia. “I’m over the moon,” he said. “I feel a bit shaky.”

Steve said he had cleaned their motor-home, complete with karaoke machine, from top to bottom, in preparation for taking a trip around New Zealand for the pair to see their friends and family. “We’ve been talking on the phone for five hours a day to keep our sanity that way,” says Steve. “It’s been very hard.”

For almost two years, New Zealand’s international airports’ arrival terminals have been shuttered ghost towns. Apart from a short-lived travel bubble with Australia, the country’s borders have been closed, with those lucky enough to secure entry into the country whisked to government-managed isolation and quarantine facilities for a costly two weeks secluded in a hotel room.

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New Zealand says it won’t impose lockdowns when Omicron spreads


New Zealand won’t resort to using lockdowns when there is an Omicron variant outbreak, its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Lockdowns were implemented when the Delta variant spread in New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern said an outbreak of the Omicron variant was inevitable and she said the nation would tighten restrictions as soon as a case was detected.

“This stage of the pandemic is different to what we have dealt with before. Omicron is more transmissible,” Ardern said.

Ardern lifted the lid on her plan to tackle Omicron.

Within 24 to 48 hours of a case being detected, the nation would move to its “red” setting, she explained.

Businesses and domestic travel could continue under the “red” setting but there would be some restrictions.

Restrictions would include schoolchildren having to wear masks masks and crowds being limited to 100 people.

Most of New Zealand is in an “orange” setting at the moment which requires some mask wearing and proof of vaccination.

However, under an “orange setting, crowd sizes are not limited within the restrictions.

Ninety percent of eligible population in Auckland now fully vaccinated


After more than 100 days in lockdown, New Zealand’s largest city moved to the traffic light system today, with cafes, bars, gyms and cinemas opening.

Today has also seen a number of “significant vaccination achievements” in Auckland, the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) said.

With Waitemāta DHB joining Auckland DHB in surpassing the 90 percent mark, the figure has now been achieved as an average across the three DHBs in the city.

Auckland DHB has reached 97 percent of eligible people receiving their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine, and 93 percent fully vaccinated, while Waitemāta’s first dose rate is 93 percent, with 90 percent fully vaccinated.

First dose vaccination rates in Counties Manukau stand at 93 percent for first doses and 87 percent for the second. The DHB is projected to hit 90 percent within the next couple of weeks.

Eighty percent of Māori aged 12 and over in Auckland DHB are now fully vaccinated.

New Zealand to reopen borders to vaccinated visitors from new year


New Zealand has announced it will reopen its borders to vaccinated visitors in the opening months of 2022, for the first time since prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced their snap closure in the first month of the Covid-19 pandemic. The country’s borders have been closed for more than a year and a half.

The border will initially open to New Zealand citizens and visa holders coming from Australia, then from the rest of the world, and finally to all other vaccinated visitors from the end of April. They will still have to self-isolate at home for a week, but will no longer have to pass through the country’s expensive and highly-space limited managed isolation facilities.

“Closing our border was one of the first steps we took to keep our country safe from Covid-19 and it will be one of the last things we do in terms of opening up,” Covid response minister Chris Hipkins said. “We do know that the international restrictions we have had around our border have been tough for many people.”

While that timeline is still some time off, news of a border reopening will come as a huge relief for many overseas New Zealanders who have been stranded for most of the last year, competing for a small number of spots in managed isolation.

New Zealand making ‘huge progress’ in vaccinations, experts say


New Zealand is making “huge progress” on Covid-19 vaccinations with nearly a quarter of the country fully vaccinated, experts say.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Sunday that 73 per cent of New Zealanders over the age of 40 had either received their first vaccination or were booked in to get a jab.

On Saturday there were 52,206 doses administered nationally. More than 2.75 million doses of the vaccine had been given since the roll-out began; 1.75 million first doses and just under one million were second doses.

“New Zealand is making huge progress on vaccinations. You look at the numbers, it’s the proportion of people who have been fully vaccinated or who have had one or more dosages … that’s real progress.”

He said the country was on track to have everyone vaccinated by the end of the year.

‘Light at the end of the tunnel’: New Zealand welcomes border reopening plans

New Zealand’s much-awaited, albeit cautious, roadmap for reopening its borders has given businesses and families a taste of hope for the future, though health experts warn that it is dependent on improving the country’s vaccination strategy to reach vulnerable communities.

The prime minister Jacinda Ardern laid out the reopening plans at a forum in Wellington on Thursday, 17 months after borders closed in March 2020.

Ardern indicated that, all going well, vaccinated travellers from low-risk countries will be allowed to skip quarantine and enter the country early next year. Travellers from medium-risk countries would undertake some form of self-isolation or a shorter stay in a quarantine hotel, while MIQ would still be required for those coming from high-risk countries, or those who are unvaccinated.

The proposals are contingent on an accelerated vaccine rollout in the next few months as the country seeks to avoid the lockdowns that are currently taking place in Australia.

Business leader and former chief executive of Air New Zealand Rob Fyfe said he felt encouraged that the strategy was “a clear signal of intent to open up”.


Two million vaccine doses administered in New Zealand


People aged 55 and up will be able to book vaccines from Friday, five days earlier than planned, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.

He also says New Zealand’s rollout of the Pfizer vaccine has reached the two-million mark, with 2,021,024 doses given by midnight last night.

Chris Hipkins and joint head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Megan Main have given a coronavirus and vaccine update this afternoon.

Yesterday was a record day for vaccinations with more than 42,000 inoculations, and DHBs continuing to track more than 3 percent ahead of the plan, Hipkins says.

Second doses have been given to 769,700 New Zealanders.

New Zealands’s first mass vaccination event to be held in Auckland at end of July


The country’s first mass Covid-19 vaccination event will be held in south Auckland at the end of the month.

On Wednesday, Covid-19 Response Health Minister Chris Hipkins announced the event will be held at the Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau, over the weekend of Friday, July 30 to Sunday, August 1.

More than 15,000 people are set to be vaccinated over those three days, Hipkins said. Another mass vaccination event will be held six weeks later for second doses.

It comes after a mass vaccination event at the centre planned earlier this month was postponed due to tight supply of the vaccine.

New Zealand reaches 100 days without community transmission


New Zealand has reached 100 days without community transmission of Covid-19, following the news that there are no new cases outside managed isolation and quarantine on Tuesday.

The 100-day time period spans Sunday, February 28 to June 8, according to community case details on the Ministry of Heath’s website.

New Zealand is just two days off from beating the previous milestone.

One in 20 Kiwi adults now fully vaccinated, new batch of vaccines arrives


New Zealand continues to outpace its planned vaccine rollout schedule, with more than 668,000 jabs completed as of midnight Tuesday.

Almost 234,000 Kiwis are now fully vaccinated, about 5.6 per cent of the 16+ population.

This is tracking at about 109 per cent of the Government’s plan, associate health Minister Ayesha Verrall said.

New Zealand has generally been its exceeding its plan for the first phases of its vaccine rollout, but Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins has been openly “nervous” about the mass rollout.