New Zealand closes borders amid COVID-19 reemergence

Posted by Kyro Mitchell on 26 January 2021

New Zealand has closed its border after the country confirmed its first COVID-19 infection since November 2020.

New Zealand closes borders amid COVID-19 reemergence

Auckland, New Zealand. Image: Unsplash

The announcement was made after a 56-year-old woman returning home had tested positive for the South African B.1.351 variant of the virus, according to Reuters.

The woman, who remains unnamed, initially returned to New Zealand on December 30 after leaving a two-week mandatory quarantine facility where she had tested negative twice before eventually developing symptoms. No other infections have been reported since the woman tested positive for the new variant, and health officials believe she was potentially infected by a fellow returnee at the quarantine facility.

Authorities are looking into the possibility that the virus was spread through the ventilation and air conditioning systems in this facility.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Health has identified 16 people as potential ‘close contacts’ of the 56-year-old woman. Of this,15 people have returned negative tests, including a household contact of the case.

Once it was confirmed that the country has received its first COVID-19 infection, Australia made the decision to suspend the travel bubble it had with New Zealand.

This means any travellers coming from New Zealand to Australia will now have to go through a 14-day period of isolation in a hotel quarantine, according to The BBC.

‘It is recommended all passengers from New Zealand with a flight scheduled in the next 72 hours reconsider their need to travel,’ said Health Minister Greg Hunt during a press conference.

Hunt then went on to say that anyone who has arrived in Australia on a flight from New Zealand since January 14 would be required to isolate and get tested.

This will be done out of an abundance of caution whilst more is learned about the event and ‘the case,’ hunt added.

In addition to suspending the travel bubble, New Zealand’s borders could remain closed for most of this year to travellers from countries other than Australia, according to CCN. New Zealand will, however, pursue travel arrangements with neighbouring Australia and other Pacific nations in the coming weeks.

‘Given the risks in the world around us and the uncertainty of the global rollout of the vaccine, we can expect our borders to be impacted for much of this year,’ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during a press conference on Tuesday.

‘In the meantime, we will continue to pursue travel bubbles with Australia and the Pacific, but the rest of the world simply poses too great a risk to our health and our economy to take the risk at this stage,’ Ardern added.

New Zealand is widely regarded as one of the successful counties to contain the spread of the virus, with the nation reporting a total of 2,290 COVID-19 cases and 2,200 recoveries since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. The country also recorded a total of 25 COVID-19 related deaths.

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