New Zealand eases quarantine but won’t welcome tourists yet

Oct 27, 2021, 7:14 PM | Updated: Oct 28, 2021, 3:00 am
New Zealand's COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins gestures during a press conference in Wellin...

New Zealand's COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins gestures during a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. Hipkins said that from next month, most people arriving in New Zealand would need to spend seven days in a quarantine hotel run by the military, half the previous requirement. (Robert Kitchin/Pool Photo via AP)

(Robert Kitchin/Pool Photo via AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand officials said Thursday they will gradually loosen their border quarantine requirements, which have been among the toughest in the world throughout the pandemic.

But while the changes will make it easier for New Zealanders stranded abroad to return home, officials gave no date for when tourists might be welcomed back. That change is likely still months away.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said that from next month, most people arriving in New Zealand would need to spend seven days in a quarantine hotel run by the military, half the previous requirement.

He said some new arrivals from low-risk Pacific island countries could skip quarantine altogether and isolate at home.

He said the new rules were an interim step ahead of broader reopening measures that would be gradually introduced once more than 90% of New Zealanders aged 12 and over were fully vaccinated. So far, 72% of eligible people have had both shots.

The change follows a growing outcry from New Zealanders who have been trying to return home but have been unable to secure spots in the quarantine system. Some have resorted to legal action.

“I acknowledge that there’s a lot of pressure there. My message to the people who are keen to get back into New Zealand is: There isn’t very long to wait now,” Hipkins said. “And encouraging their fellow New Zealanders to get fully vaccinated will help us get to that point faster.”

Hipkins said he expected most new arrivals would be able to isolate at home by sometime in 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, in that they don’t necessarily have somewhere to isolate on arrival,” Hipkins said. “But we’ll work our way through all of that.”

Political opponents said the changes didn’t go far enough and that fully vaccinated travelers returning home posed little risk.

Before the pandemic began, more than 3 million tourists visited New Zealand each year, and the industry was among the nation’s largest earners of foreign income.

For more than a year after the pandemic began, the strict quarantine system helped New Zealand remain almost completely virus-free and allowed life to return to normal.

But an outbreak of the more contagious delta variant in Auckland more than two months ago has proved impossible to extinguish, 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 in lockdown, the border requirements had begun to seem outdated.

Thursday’s announcement came after officials said two people in the city of Christchurch had caught the virus after one returned from Auckland. There was no immediate evidence the virus was spreading further in the city.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Protesters stand on the highway during a protest in Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. Thous...
Associated Press

Protesters block roads in Serbia to criticize mining plans

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Thousands of protesters in Belgrade and other Serbian towns blocked main roads and bridges Saturday to decry a planned lithium mine despite police warnings and an intimidation campaign launched by authorities against the demonstrators. Blowing whistles and chanting “Uprising! Uprising!” protesters stopped traffic on the main highway that goes through the […]
8 hours ago
Olaf Scholz, SPD Chancellor-designate speaks at the SPD party conference at Willy Brandt House in B...
Associated Press

Scholz’s party approves deal for new German coalition govt

German Chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz’s center-left party gave its overwhelming approval Saturday to forming a new government with environmentalist and pro-business parties — the first of three such decisions needed for Scholz to take office next week. Scholz’s Social Democrats narrowly won Germany’s Sept. 26 election and launched negotiations with the Greens and the business-friendly Free […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Drilling rigs and workboats operate at the site of the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gul...
Associated Press

BP oil spill fund: $103M to projects in 3 Gulf states

Alabama, Florida and Mississippi are receiving more than $103 million in BP oil spill settlement money for new and continued coastal projects. “These projects, combined with existing investments, continue to advance our goal of protecting and restoring species and habitats impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of […]
8 hours ago
FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 2, 2020, file photo, Stacey Abrams speaks to Biden supporters as they w...
Associated Press

2nd Stacey Abrams governor bid sees new tests, intrigues

ATLANTA (AP) — Stacey Abrams announced a long-awaited second run for Georgia governor this week, but with Democrats facing a sour national environment and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp facing challenges within his own party, the 2022 campaign will look different from 2018. Abrams’ narrow loss, highlighted by her claims that Kemp used his prior post […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Allen Toussaint performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, Satu...
Associated Press

New Orleans: Push to rename Lee boulevard after Toussaint

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A member of the New Orleans city council is pushing to change a street currently named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and replace it with one the city’s most famous musicians, Allen Toussaint, who died in 2015. Councilmember Jared C. Brossett introduced an ordinance to rename the street that goes […]
8 hours ago
In this courtroom sketch, defense attorney Jeffrey Pagliuca, left, confers with Ghislaine Maxwell a...
Associated Press

Scenes from Week 1 of Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-abuse trial

NEW YORK (AP) — The first week of the sex-abuse trial of Ghislaine Maxwell saw the first of her four main accusers taking the witness stand to give emotional testimony accusing the British socialite of coaxing her — at just 14 — into sexual encounters with financier Jeffrey Epstein. The jury at the federal trial […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Why fall maintenance is important for your heating system and A/C

It’s easy to ignore your heater and air conditioner when they’re working but the moment something breaks, you will likely regret not keeping up with maintenance. After all, if something goes wrong, you may be stuck with a repair that will take longer and be more expensive than simple maintenance.
...
Schwartz Laser Eye Center

How to sharpen your vision with elective procedures

Imagine opening your eyes in the morning and being able to see clearly. You wouldn’t have to wait to put on glasses or contacts, and there would be no more blurry showers nor forgetting where your glasses are.
...
PNC Bank

3 cool tips to turn everyday moments into learning experiences for your child

Early brain development has a crucial impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. Research has shown that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by age five.
New Zealand eases quarantine but won’t welcome tourists yet