OAN’s Brooke Mallory
2:04 PM – Tuesday, August 15, 2023
New Zealand lifted the last of its COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, effectively ending one of the world’s longest pandemic-era regulations.
Ayesha Verrall, the island nation’s health minister, said that the last seven-day required isolation regulation for individuals who test positive for COVID-19, as well as the necessary masks in health care institutions, will be lifted at midnight on Tuesday.
When coronavirus cases initially appeared in 2020, New Zealand served as a “model” for how nations could successfully combat it, ordering early lockdowns and stringent border measures.
The country’s COVID-19 measures kept the island closed off from the rest of the world and grew increasingly unpopular as the regulations went on, taking a toll on the economy.
“It has been a long road, however thanks to lots of hard work, New Zealand’s COVID-19 approach has moved from an emergency response to sustainable long-term management,” Verrall said in a statement.
“While our case numbers will continue to fluctuate, we have not seen the dramatic peaks that characterized COVID-19 rates last year,” the health minister continued.
According to the government, the COVID-19 virus has put far less strain on New Zealand’s health-care system this winter, accounting for only 2.2% of recent hospital admissions.
“This, paired with the population’s immunity levels, means Cabinet and I am advised we’re positioned to safely remove the remaining COVID-19 requirements,” Verrall said.
The move was described as a “significant milestone” by Prime Minister Chris Hipkins.
“The unity of the Kiwi response, and the sacrifices that were all commonplace all contributed to the many thousands of lives that were saved,” he said during a press briefing.
Last March, protesters camping for weeks outside of the Parliament set fire to tents, mattresses, and chairs, causing alarming scenes in Wellington, the nation’s capital. New Zealand had already been struggling with economic anxiety and rising living costs at the time.
Support for Ardern and the Labour Party plummeted in 2022 before she abruptly announced her resignation in January, citing “insufficient energy.”
Hipkins, as health minister, was heavily linked to the harsh zero-COVID regulations for most of the pandemic.
The government progressively reopened its borders in 2022, undoing the strict controls put in place in March 2020 to keep immigrants out, and limit places for citizens to return.
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