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21st Dec 2021

New Zealand delays border reopening amid Omicron concerns

Ellen Fitzpatrick

It is being pushed back.

New Zealand has decided to postpone its phased border reopening until February after concerns were raised over the rapid spread of the Omicron variant worldwide.

The nation had begun easing some of its restrictions around international travel after seeing its borders closed for nearly two years amid the pandemic.

The international borders restrictions were set to loosen in January, with all foreign tourists allowed to return to the country from April.

Those arriving into the country that are citizens of New Zealand and coming from Australia were set to be allowed to do so from January 16 but this has been delayed until February, according to Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.

“All of the evidence so far points to Omicron being the most transmissible Covid-19 variant yet,” he said in a press conference in Wellington.

“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.”

He added that the measures were a precaution as it is still unknown how sick the Omicron variant makes people and how it might impact the health system.

The stay in quarantine facilities is also set to be increased from one week to 10 days, with the pre-departure test required to enter New Zealand being reduced from 72 hours to 48 hours.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the decisions have been made as a way to give the Government more time to prepare for the impact of Omicron.

“It’s unfortunately not a case of if (it spreads in New Zealand) but when … it’s so easily spread. So we are doing everything we can to make sure we are prepared,” she said on Facebook Live.

New Zealand so far has reported 22 cases of the Omicron variant, with them all being at border quarantine facilities and yet to appear through community transmission.