Jacinda Ardern DELAYS plans to reopen New Zealand to the world

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed New Zealand will lift the lockdowns when Omicron comes into the community after her government hinted at when Australians might be allowed back in.

The nation will transition to the code-red alert setting as part of its Covid-19 protection framework once Omicron cases emerge, but the country will not be shut down.

‘Omicron is more transferable. That will make it harder to keep it out, but also harder to control once it arrives,” Ms Ardern said.

“But as before, when Covid changes, we change and we are in a solid position to do so with the data and evidence from other countries’ experience to make the best decision we can, based on what we know.” see elsewhere. ‘

Code red will allow businesses to remain open and domestic travel to continue, but with restrictions on wearing and collecting masks to slow the spread of the virus and put pressure on the health system.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed there will be no lockdowns when Omicron affects the community

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed there will be no lockdowns when Omicron affects the community

It comes as pressure mounts for Ms Ardern to phase out New Zealand’s border regime and the mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine for all travelers, including citizens.

Quarantined places, known locally as MIQ, are hotly contested – the government offers them through ballot papers, which are generally well oversubscribed.

And for now they are off limits.

Earning the ire of the Kiwis based abroad, Ms Ardern’s government has canceled the release of this week’s MIQ chamber due to a tidal wave of COVID-19 cases, including the Omicron variant, at the border.

“There is a 10-fold increase in positive COVID-19 cases at the border compared to December,” MIQ chief Chris Bunny said in a statement released late Tuesday night.

“We understand that this will be disappointing for many people who want to return to New Zealand. The government’s strategy is to minimize the risk of Omicron in New Zealand as much as possible.”

To date, only five cases of Omicron have been picked up in the community, all of which have been vaccinated, with transmission limited to households.

The pressing question for Ms. Ardern is when to make boundary changes, knowing that Omicron is likely to seep into the community.

The previous plan was to put the Australian-based Kiwis into self-isolation from this week, which was implemented until the end of February.

On Wednesday, COVID-19 minister Chris Hipkins suggested the timetable had also been given the boot.

“There’s no question that we’re moving toward a self-isolation model… the question of exactly when that happens and the sequence, that’s changed,” he said.

No decisions have been made on the date, order and conditions for reopening the border and the cabinet will consider options in the coming weeks.

“In the meantime, our focus will be on increasing the number of boosters and immunizing as many 5-11 year olds as possible before Omicron gains a foothold in the community.”

The reopening question is a tricky one for Ms Ardern, who earned a thumping re-election in 2020 with a political brand inexorably tied to NZ’s elimination strategy.

Of course, it is not the government’s decision when Omicron leaks into the community.

With an average of 35 borderline cases coming in each day, Ms Ardern said an Omicron outbreak this week was a matter of “when, not if.”

A group of New Zealand’s most prominent public health experts published an open letter this week suggesting changes to Covid-19 settings based on the rise of Omicron.

“The first urgent priority is to increase measures to delay the arrival of the Omicron variant to give more preparation time,” they wrote.

They also suggest a “shift from the current suppression strategy to mitigation”… “to flatten the curve” and minimize the risk of health care overload and social and economic disruptions.

One of the authors, Michael Baker, a professor at the University of Otago, told AAP that “some kind of mitigating approach is probably the best we can manage.”

‘If you let it in, is there an optimal time for that? There’s a case of saying you don’t want Omicron to arrive in the middle of winter,” he said.

“If you say it’s inevitable, sometime after February and before winter, if you could pick a point, it would be in that ballpark.”

At the very least, New Zealand can rely on strong vaccination rates in making the tricky reopening call.

As of Wednesday, 93 percent of Kiwis ages 12 and older have been fully vaccinated, 95 percent have been partially vaccinated, with an accelerated boost campaign and the kids’ vax drive in earnest.

This post Jacinda Ardern DELAYS plans to reopen New Zealand to the world

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