The biggest city Auckland has been in lockdown for over 90 days, although some measures were eased recently.
New Zealand will adopt a new system of living with the virus from Dec. 3, which will end tough coronavirus measures and allow businesses to operate in its biggest city, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement on Monday.
New Zealand has been unable to beat an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 centred in Auckland, forcing Ardern to abandon her acclaimed elimination strategy and switch to a system of treating the virus as endemic.
Its biggest city Auckland has been in lockdown for over 90 days, although some measures were eased recently.
Meanwhile, the Australian government expects 200,000 vaccinated foreign students and skilled workers will soon return without quarantining when the country further relaxes pandemic restrictions next week.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison
From Dec. 1, students, skilled workers and travelers on working vacations will be allowed to land at Sydney and Melbourne airports without needing to seek exemptions from a travel ban, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Monday.
"The return of skilled workers and students to Australia is a major milestone in our pathway back, it’s a major milestone about what Australians have been able to achieve and enable us to do,” Morrison said.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister said, "The hard truth is that Delta is here and not going away, but New Zealand is well set to tackle it because of our high vaccination rates and our latest safety measures including the traffic light system and Vaccine Pass.”
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during an event.
In the new system, regions will be put into a red, orange or green setting depending on their level of exposure to COVID-19 and vaccination rates. Auckland, which is the epicentre of the outbreak, will start at red.
Ardern said about 83% of eligible New Zealanders are fully vaccinated now and if all those people who are due for their second shot get it, that number would rise to 88%.
The Australian government expects 200,000 arrivals in the two categories by January, he said.
Vaccinated citizens of Japan and South Korea will also be allowed in without quarantining, as well as people on humanitarian visas.
But the government has yet to decide when general tourists will be allowed to return.
"I think Australians are very keen to see us take this step-by-step approach,” Morrison said.
"They’ve been through a lot and they’ve sacrificed a lot to ensure that we can open safely so we can stay safely open,” he added.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the ban on anyone who is not a citizen or permanent resident coming to Australia "will be in place from 9pm tomorrow evening".
The rate of new coronavirus cases has abated significantly in both countries without straining the capacity of their health systems. New Zealand has enforced a wide-ranging lockdown and Australia is also tightly restricting many activities.
There were 32 new coronavirus cases on Sunday in Auckland, which has been in lockdown since mid-August, and two cases in the Waikato region, some 147 kilometres (91 miles) south of Auckland. Ardern said parts of the region will go into a five-day lockdown.
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