WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – New Zealanders are about to face new COVID-19 restrictions after nine cases of the Omicron variant were detected in a single family who flew to Auckland for a wedding earlier this month. , Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Sunday.
The country’s so-called “red setup” for the pandemic response includes enhanced measures such as mandatory mask wearing and gathering limits, and the restrictions will go into effect on Monday.
Ardern emphasized that “red is not a lock,” noting that businesses can still stay open and people can still visit family and friends and move freely around the country.
“Our plan to manage Omicron cases in the early stages remains the same as delta, where we will rapidly test, contact trace and isolate,” Ardern told reporters in Wellington on Sunday. cases as well as contacts to slow the spread.”
New Zealand is among the few remaining countries that have avoided any outbreaks of the Omicron variant, but Ardern acknowledged last week that an outbreak was inevitable due to the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant. this variation.
The country has managed to contain the spread of the Delta variant, with an average of about 20 new cases per day. But it has seen an increasing number of people arrive in the country and subject to mandatory quarantine of those infected with Omicron.
That has put a strain on the quarantine system and led the government to restrict access for returning citizens while it decides what to do about reopening its borders, leaving many wanting to return. New Zealand is angry.
Approximately 93% of New Zealanders aged 12 years and over are fully immunized and 52% have received a booster shot. The country has just begun to vaccinate children between the ages of 5 and 11.
The family from the Nelson-Marlborough area attended a wedding and other events while in Auckland, with estimates showing they came into contact with “more than 100 people at these events”, Ardern said.
“That means omicrons are currently circulating in Auckland and possibly the Nelson-Marlborough region if not elsewhere,” she added.
Switching to the red setting also affects Ardern personally. The Prime Minister had planned to get married next weekend, but due to new restrictions, the celebration will be postponed.
“I just join many other New Zealanders who have had an experience like that as a result of the pandemic and for anyone caught up in that prospect, I’m very sorry,” she said.