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New Zealand borders to stay closed until start of next year
12 August 2021, 06:16
New Zealand will keep its borders closed to international travellers until the start of next year at the earliest.
The South Pacific nation has completely eradicated coronavirus but will not allow arrivals from overseas until its vaccine rollout is completed at the end of 2021.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: "While the pandemic continues to rage overseas, and the virus continues to change and mutate, the best thing we can do is lock in the gains achieved to date while keeping our options open."
From the first quarter of next year, New Zealand will begin allowing international travellers to arrive on a carefully managed basis.
Ms Ardern added that double-jabbed arrivals from low-risk countries would not be told to self-isolate, while those arriving from medium-risk countries would need to complete some form of quarantine.
Anyone arriving from a high-risk country or who has not been vaccinated will need to stay in a quarantine hotel run by the military for 14 days.
She also said the government planned to follow the advice of experts and maintain New Zealand's Covid elimination strategy, despite some in the country questioning the feasibility of maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to the virus once international travel resumes.
Officials also said they would delay second shots of the Pfizer jab in order to speed up first shots to protect more people as the threat of the Delta variant grows.
The vaccine rollout has been much slower than in most developed nations, although it is beginning to accelerate.
New Zealand's success in erasing the virus has allowed life to return almost to normal.
The country, which has a population of five million people, has reported just 26 deaths since the pandemic began.
That has been achieved in part by closing borders to those who are not residents or citizens.