new zealand waives masks and vaccines due to sweeping covid changes
New Zealand – New Zealand, which once eradicated the virus with the world’s toughest pandemic rules, has introduced relief similar to Australian or European conditions.
Jacinda Ardern said it was time to safely turn the page on New Zealand’s Covid-19 restrictions by lifting all but a few remaining rules.
Wearing masks will no longer be mandatory in public places, and the latest vaccination requirements will be lifted in two weeks, in line with sweeping changes announced by the Prime Minister on Monday.
However, the government is adhering to a seven-day isolation period for people with the virus, ignoring calls to reduce isolation to five days.
Over the winter, New Zealand was hit by a major Omicron wave that killed more New Zealanders than in any other outbreak of the pandemic. The death toll now stands at 1,950, up from 50 at the start of the year to 500 four months ago. However, both the number of cases and the government’s key metric, hospitalizations, have fallen sharply in recent weeks, giving the government confidence to overcome onerous restrictions.
“Today marks a milestone in our response. Finally, rather than feeling that Covid dictates what happens to us, our lives, and our futures, we take back control,” Ardern said.
New Zealand adhered to mask-wearing rules in many places, including shops, public transport, institutions and airports, during the winter when the Covid-19 ‘twindemic’ and the flu put severe pressure on the healthcare system.
From Tuesday, the wearing of masks will only be mandatory in medical facilities, with the exception of psychiatric services. Several remaining vaccination mandates for workers and incoming travelers have also disappeared. Tests upon arrival in New Zealand are no longer required but encouraged.
While the isolation requirement for Covid-positive kiwis remained, the government removed the requirement that household contacts also comply with this requirement.
The government’s continued restrictions in recent months have drawn criticism from the opposition and businesses. The Kiwis were increasingly fed up with many of the rules, especially the wearing of masks, with widespread non-compliance, especially outside of Wellington.