New Zealand’s defeat with the Delta tribe of Covid-19 could see a relaxation of international border rules before Christmas.
And Jacinda Ardern’s government is preparing to allow kiwis with the virus to stay at home or isolate themselves in communities if they do not need hospital-level care.
A predicted increase in the number of coronavirus cases on the horizon has prompted the changes.
The hard line has been maintained as New Zealand pursued an elimination strategy against the virus, but the reluctant acceptance of ongoing Community action has turned the government’s mind to a rethinking of the borders.
Mrs Ardern appears to be loosening her mandatory 14-day stay at a quarantine hotel – locally known as MIQ – on arrival.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been forced to reconsider her Covid-19 policy ahead of a predicted increase in cases despite her elimination strategy
“We are actively considering our MIQ settings in light of the fact that we are unlikely to return to zero cases,” said Covid 19 Secretary Chris Hipkins.
‘You can expect to see us talk more about it pretty soon.’
International travel has been on hold since July, when New Zealand suspended the trans-Tasman bubble due to rising incidents in NSW and Victoria.
Although there are several Covid-free regions in both countries – including Wellington and the South Island – the government has not wanted to reopen the bubble.
In August, a major review suggested that NZ move to a traffic light system for arrivals in early 2022, based on the risk profile Covid-19 of where travelers have come from.
It is unclear whether it will continue to follow that plan as the virus appears to be in NZ.
New Zealand has already issued a vaccination mandate for international arrivals: from next month, all non-citizens arriving in the country must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
For future action, the government is keeping a close eye on Australia’s planned reopening next month.
‘People who want to move between New Zealand and Australia … are one of the areas where there is the most pressure for movement,’ Hipkins said.
‘When we talk about changes at the international border, Australia is one of the countries that is definitely in mind.’
New Zealand’s case numbers remain low by global standards – the seven-day average is currently 43 – but rising.
On Wednesday, Hipkins warned of ‘significant growth’ in cases in Auckland where the virus is out of control.
NZ is now moving from elimination to a model of repression and is rapidly writing a new rulebook to minimize cases and protect the under-resource health system.
New Zealand (Wellington, pictured) was able to reopen its international border and resume its travel bubble with Australia for Christmas
Radio NZ reports that 583 MIQ beds have been designated for kiwis with COVID-19, and as of Monday, 211 were in use filled with 364 people.
The predicted increase in cases would challenge this capacity.
A proposed new measure is Community-supported isolation and quarantine, where low-risk cases cannot be isolated in the MIQ or hospital, but at home or in other facilities.
The most important preventive measure is vaccination.
“Only three percent of the cases in this outbreak have been vaccinated,” Hipkins said.
‘The best thing people can do to protect themselves and their whanau (family) is to get vaccinated.’
About 80 percent of eligible kiwis have had at least one dose of vaccine, of which 57 percent are fully vaccinated.