New Zealand lifts most vaccine mandates as Omicron outbreak nears peak

New Zealand is conducting a day-long COVID-19 vaccination campaign, seen in Auckland
FILE PHOTO: Members of the public wait in cars at a drive-through coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination clinic during a day-long vaccination drive aimed at significantly increasing the percentage of people in the country who are vaccinated in Auckland, New Zealand, April 16 October 2021. REUTERS/Simon Watts

March 23, 2022

By Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – The New Zealand government said on Wednesday it would lift vaccination mandates for a number of sectors, including education and police, from April 4 as the current COVID-19 outbreak nears its peak.

New Zealand’s response to the pandemic won praise abroad, keeping hospitalizations and deaths low. But public anger at ongoing domestic restrictions has been growing, reaching a peak earlier this month during violent protests outside the nation’s legislature in Wellington.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference that only those working with vulnerable people such as elderly care and healthcare sectors and frontier workers will be allowed to work from May 4.

Vaccination cards are also no longer required for visiting restaurants, cafés and other public spaces, she added.

“With more tools and one of the most vaccinated populations in the world, we can safely move forward,” Ardern said as she announced the lifting of most of the mandates.

Over 95% of the New Zealand population over the age of 12 has now received two vaccinations.

But with more than 500,000 confirmed cases in the country of 5 million, the virus is now rampant.

Ardern said that the peak of the outbreak in New Zealand’s largest city Auckland has now passed and the rest of the country is expected to see a peak in infections before April 5, the mandates could soon be lifted.

“As our cases come back, it is time to take our next steps confident in the collective immunity and protections we have built,” she said.

The move comes a week after the government announced it would open borders to Australians from mid-April and those on visa-free programs from May.

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by Michael Perry) New Zealand lifts most vaccine mandates as Omicron outbreak nears peak

Bobby Allyn

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