Global COVID-19 updates: New Zealand plans border reopening from 2022

Published : August 12, 2021 20:30 IST

New Zealand has cut off most international travel since March 2020. -Getty Images

Vaccinated travelers could be allowed quarantine-free entry to New Zealand starting early next year. Meanwhile, Australia's capital went into lockdown after a single COVID case was detected.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on August 12 that strict border controls would remain in place this year, adding, however, that a phased reopening of international travel would be possible in 2022.

New Zealand closed its borders to everyone except permanent residents and citizens at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. It now plans to allow quarantine-free entry to vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries starting early 2022. "We're simply not in a position to fully reopen just yet," Ardern said in a speech at the 'Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World' forum in Wellington. "When we move we will be careful and deliberate because we want to move with confidence and with as much certainty as possible," she added.

Ardern said that in the first quarter of 2022, the government would move to a new individual risk-based model for quarantine-free travel. Low-risk, medium-risk, and high-risk "travel pathways" would be established under this model. Vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries can travel quarantine-free. Those from medium-risk countries will have to self-isolate or quarantine for a shorter amount of time.

Unvaccinated travelers, or those from high-risk areas, will still have to spend 14 days in quarantine. The Pacific island country of 5 million has managed to successfully stop local transmission of the virus, and domestic life is close to normal. However, its vaccination process has been slower than in many other developed countries.

Here is a roundup of other coronavirus news from around the world:

Asia-Pacific

Australia's capital, Canberra, entered a seven-day lockdown on August 12 after a single COVID case was detected in the community. The capital territory, which has largely avoided virus restrictions, will impose a stay-at-home order from 5 p.m. local time.

"This is the most serious public health risk that we are faced in the territory this year. Really, since the beginning of the pandemic," Australian Capital Territory chief minister Andrew Barr said.

Meanwhile, police in Sydney will be given greater powers to enforce the lockdown in Australia's most populous city. A "significant" number of military troops would be sent to helping police enforce home-quarantine orders on affected households in the worst-affected suburbs of Sydney, according to The Australian newspaper.

This would be in addition to the nearly 300 unarmed military personnel are already providing support.

Japan's capital, Tokyo has registered 4,989 new COVID-19 infections on August 12, the second highest number of new cases so far. The number of patients with severe symptoms rose to a high of 218 cases.

A government team of experts has described the situation in the Japanese capital as "a disaster-level emergency situation that is out of control," the Kyodo news agency reported. Tokyo is currently under a fourth state of emergency set to last until August 31.

Many Tokyo residents were concerned that the Olympics, which ended in the city last week, could lead to a spike in transmissions. Tokyo plans to kick off the Paralympics on August 24. The event is scheduled to last until September 5.

Europe

Germany reported 5,638 new cases of coronavirus on August 12, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. Daily infections have been increasing for the past three days, with the latest spike being the highest since May. The number of fatalities rose by 17 to 91,834.

Finland reported a record daily rise of COVID cases on August 12, with 1,024 new infections driven by the highly contagious delta variant. Finland still remains one of Europe's least-affected countries by the pandemic, with nearly 110,000 total cases and 995 deaths. Infections began to rise in June and July, partially attributed to soccer fans returning from the Euro 2020 matches.

Americas

Teachers and other school staff in California have to be vaccinated or submit to weekly virus tests, the state's governor Gavin Newsom announced on August 11. The mandate comes as the most populous US state prepares to send its largely unvaccinated children back to school for the next academic year.

"To give parents confidence that their children are safe as schools return to full, in-person learning, we are urging all school staff to get vaccinated," Newsom said. "Vaccinations are how we will end this pandemic. As a father, I look forward to the start of the school year and seeing all California kids back in the classroom."

Mexico's total coronavirus infections crossed the 3-million mark after the country reported 22,711 new cases on August 11. The Latin American nation also reported 727 fatalities, bringing the overall death toll to 246,203.

Middle East

Israel stepped up its coronavirus restrictions and extended the use of its "Green Pass," a digital vaccine passport as the country struggles with skyrocketing new infections. Everyone over the age of three and above would have to show a certificate stating that they have been vaccinated, recovered, or tested negative, the coronavirus cabinet decided on August 11.

adi/wmr (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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