New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a press conference in Christchurch, New Zealand. File photo/AP
New Zealand on Saturday announced the world's tightest border controls to combat the spread of coronavirus, requiring all incoming travellers, including its own citizens, to self-isolate for two weeks starting midnight on Sunday.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the extreme measures were needed to prevent the rapid spread of the virus.
"With a small number of Pacific Islands who have effectively closed their border, this decision will mean New Zealand will have the widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world," Ardern said.
The country has just six confirmed cases and has had no deaths, but Ardern said that number inevitably would rise.
"That is why ultimately, we must go hard and we must go early. We must do everything we can to protect the health of New Zealanders," she told reporters.
People from small South Pacific island nations, which have no confirmed COVID-19 cases, will be exempt from the self-isolation rule, Ardern said.
And to protect those nations from the virus, New Zealand would impose strict exit measures, barring anyone who has been overseas from travelling to South Pacific islands for two weeks, and barring anyone who has had symptoms or been in contact with anyone with COVID-19 from travelling there.
The travel restrictions will be reviewed at the end of the March. Ardern also encouraged all New Zealanders to reconsider all overseas trips. Australia did the same on Friday.
New Zealand also asked all cruise ships to stay away until the end of June.
Air New Zealand on Saturday offered fare refunds or 12-month credit on the value of fares to anyone affected by the new restrictions. Qantas Airways and Virgin said they were assessing their responses.
"We know these travel restrictions will place significant strain on the aviation industry, and we anticipate some routes will reduce or cease for a period of time," Ardern said.
In Australia, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose to 203 on Saturday, with all six new cases involving people who had recently travelled overseas. There have been three deaths in Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has called for an end to all non-essential gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday, cancelled plans to go to a rugby game on Saturday after a senior minister was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Friday.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had attended a cabinet meeting with Morrison on Tuesday, but Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said on Saturday it was "extremely unlikely" anyone at the meeting would have contracted the infection from Dutton.
Hollywood megastar Tom Hanks and his singer-songwriter wife tested positive for the new coronavirus in Australia on Thursday, forcing them into hospital isolation and leaving authorities to trace hundreds of contacts at their concerts and film sets.
Hanks and Rita Wilson, both 63, are being monitored at the Gold Coast University Hospital where they were "in a stable condition", according to Queensland state health officials.
Australian Broadcasting Corp showed footage on Saturday of cleaners in biohazard suits scrubbing the government offices in Sydney, floor to ceiling, where the meeting was held.
US President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka and US Attorney General William Barr, who met Dutton in Washington on March 6, decided to work from home on Friday.
New Zealand minister Tracey Martin, who also attended the meeting in Washington, was self-isolating while awaiting results from a coronavirus test, New Zealand media reported on Saturday.
In a move by business to slow the spread of the virus, Australia's biggest telco, Telstra Corp Ltd, on Friday ordered 20,000 staff, 70% of its Australian workforce, to work from home starting on Monday, a spokesman said.
The number of Australians making online queries about migrating to New Zealand has surged after conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s shock election win, official data showed on Tuesday.
The government hopes to announce a start date on April 6, Ardern told a news conference, adding that while opening borders with neighbours was a priority, several concerns needed to be resolved first.
New Zealand Prime Minsiter Jacinda Ardern on Sunday announced a three-day lockdown in the country's biggest city Auckland, after three new local COVID-19 cases were reported.
The Dubai Court of Appeal commuted a verdict issued by the Court of First Instance against an Asian delivery person convicted of assaulting an 8-year-old girl. The verdict has been commuted from 3 years to one year in prison to be followed by deportation.
The new decrees include Decree No. (31) of 2021 on the Board of Trustees of British University in Dubai; Decree No.(29) of 2021 on the Board of Directors of Dubai Cares; Decree No.(28) on the Board of Directors of Dubai Women Establishment; and Decree No.(30) on the Board of Directors of Watani Al Emarat Foundation.
The incident shocked the Lebanese people after her family appealed for days to the authorities to provide a vaccine that could have saved her.