New Zealand is closing its borders for the remainder of the year, continuing the country’s embrace of a total isolationist strategy in its fight against the coronavirus.
On Thursday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country’s borders “will never be the same after” the pandemic, likening the situation to the 9/11 attacks.
“Just like after 9/11, the border will never be the same after Covid … things can change, but that doesn’t mean we can’t adapt to them in a way that eventually feels normal again,” said Ardern.
According to Ardern, vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries would be allowed to enter the country in early 2022. Since the start of the pandemic, New Zealand adopted a strict border protection policy, which resulted in only 26 coronavirus-related deaths.
“If we give up our elimination approach too soon there is no going back, and we could see significant breakouts here like some countries overseas are experiencing who have opened up early in their vaccination rollout,” said Ardern.
Starting in 2022, vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries will be able to enter the country without having to quarantine while those from medium-risk countries will have to undergo a period of self-isolation or stay in a quarantine hotel, according to the Guardian.
“Our ultimate goal is to get to quarantine-free travel for all vaccinated travelers… But we’re simply not in a position to fully reopen just yet,” Ardern said. “When we move we will be careful and deliberate, because we want to move with confidence and with as much certainty as possible.”
Ardern added the country’s reopening policies could change as more and more scientific evidence comes to light in the next few months.
“Just like the science, that path will not be absolute. But I think people have come to appreciate that while the future is uncertain and the plan can change – that doesn’t mean we can’t make one,” she added.
New Zealand ordered its largest city, Auckland, into a strict lockdown in January after three coronavirus cases were detected.
A coronavirus case has not been reported in the New Zealand community since February 28 this year while two imported cases have been reported caught in managed isolation or quarantine (MIQ).
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