New Zealand said on Tuesday that it is pushing for a phased opening of its borders by the end of February, another indication of how countries across the Asia Pacific region are on hand to respond to the threat of the Omicron variant. – Scrambling.
New Zealand has also postponed its plan to allow its citizens living in Australia to return without quarantine from January 17. Now this program will not start till the end of February.
New Zealand has detected 22 cases of Omicron in international arrivals, but no community cases of the variant have been reported. In the event of an outbreak, the government intends to replace past lockdowns with more targeted measures, said Chris Hipkins, the minister for Covid-19 response.
“We do not intend to go into lockdown unless it is absolutely necessary in the event of a widespread outbreak, where our health systems are under great stress and the overall health risk becomes very high,” he said.
In other measures to limit the eventual spread of the new variant, the government said residents would soon have access to a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – in four months instead of six – after their second shot.
New Zealand is one of several countries in the region that are tightening restrictions or considering tougher quarantine rules because of a different increase in cases.
In Japan, which last month closed its borders to all non-resident foreigners, an outbreak of 180 cases at a US military base has also raised fears of a resurgence. While the virus was first detected at the base on the southern island of Okinawa on Friday, officials said it was unclear how many of those people had been sickened by Omicron. A top Japanese health official said on Monday that the government has asked the United States to increase restrictions on and around the base.
Just weeks after reopening to foreign tourists, Thailand said on Tuesday it was suspending its quarantine-free itinerary until January 4 because of concerns about the version.
In Indonesia, where only 40 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the government has banned the entry of foreign nationals from several countries in Africa and Europe. Local news outlets reported that the government has said it is considering increasing the quarantine period from 10 to 14 days for Indonesian citizens arriving from those countries.
And in Australia, the Omicron version is coming through the community and has even reached Ulara, a remote community more than 1,000 miles south of the nearest coastal city of Darwin. Health officials said on Tuesday that two workers on a flight from Brisbane tested positive.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison insisted the country would not return to a harsh lockdown.
“Yes, we need to continue to examine how we manage this virus and how we live with this virus,” Mr Morrison said on Tuesday. But, he added: “We are not going back in lockdown. We will not hold back from shutting down people’s lives.”