New Zealand Removes Almost All COVID Restrictions
New Zealand removed most Covid-19 restrictions this week, dropping the mask requirement and vaccine mandates on Monday. The news brings an end to some of the toughest COVID-19 pandemic rules in the world, about two years after they went in effect.
People will no longer need to wear masks in supermarkets and other stores, busses or planes. The last remaining vaccine mandates that were in effect for health care workers, will also end. Tourists will no longer need to be vaccinated either in order to visit New Zealand.
However, some Covid-19 rules are still in place. Those who test positive for the virus must isolate for seven days, and people must wear masks when visiting health care facilities like hospitals and aged-care homes.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a weekly news conference that it was time to safely turn the page on Covid-19.
“The changes we’ve made today are significant. They mark a milestone in our response,” she said, as reported by ABC. “This is a time when finally — rather than feeling COVID dictates what happens to us, our lives, and our futures — we take control back.”
New Zealand had initial success in fighting the pandemic by completely closing its borders and imposing contact-tracing. But when more transmissible variants emerged, the task became more difficult. As late as March, the country of 5 million had reported only 65 Covid deaths. Since an omicron wave took over as the main variant, that number went up to nearly 2,000.
New Zealand still has a very low death rate than many other countries, at 386 per million. The United States for example is at 3,178. Case numbers in New Zealand are also at the lowest point since February right now.
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