New Zealand’s border will close tonight to non-citizens and non-residents as the government clamps down on travel to try and slow the spread of covid-19.
Only New Zealanders, permanent residents and some Pacific Islanders travelling for humanitarian reasons or because they are health sector workers will be able to board flights to New Zealand after midnight.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the tougher measures imposed today reflect her dissatisfaction with the self-isolation efforts being made by some tourists since that became a requirement last weekend. Those measures require mandatory self-isolation for 14 days.
“That is an unacceptable risk that we must end,” she said at Parliament this evening.
“I’m not willing to tolerate risk at our border. That’s where the risk is coming from.”
Officials today confirmed that New Zealand has 28 covid-19 cases – all of whom brought the illness from overseas or caught it from those travellers.
Globally almost 291,400 cases have been reported, including almost 9,000 deaths.
Ardern said she was determined that New Zealand would be in the camp of countries that are so far managing their infection risk.
Whereas many countries in Europe are facing a “tidal wave” of infection and some are now unable to trace contacts of those infected or even test those who are symptomatic, countries like Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan have slowed infections there.
That strategy meant keeping ahead of the risk that is evolving overseas, and the measures New Zealand has taken to date have been ahead of other countries with far greater infection rates, she said.
“We are making these moves with 28 cases.”
Protecting public health
Ardern said Cabinet was constantly trying to balance the need to protect the health of the public while minimising the potential harm to the economy from the response.
“If we manage to slow down the transmission of this virus in New Zealand, that is how we best protect jobs and the economy.
“Self-isolation is key to our success.”
Ardern reiterated that the travel restrictions won’t apply to crew of ships and aircraft bringing or exporting freight.
“Our shelves will remain stocked. There is no reason to panic buy.”
While there will be fewer flights to and from New Zealand, freight services will continue and there will be passenger capacity maintained. Tourists already here should make early arrangements to ensure they are able to leave the country when they plan to, she said.
Temporary workers already in the country will likely be treated as essential workers and allowed to stay.
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