New Zealand’s Prime Minister has been forced to postpone her own wedding as she introduces new Covid restrictions.
Jacinda Ardern said tighter rules were needed after nine Omicron cases were detected in a single family that flew to Auckland for a wedding earlier this month.
It is estimated the family, from the Nelson-Marlborough region, came into contact with ‘well over 100 people’.
‘That means Omicron is now circulating in Auckland and possibly the Nelson-Marlborough region if not elsewhere,’ Ms Ardern said.
The PM was planning to get married herself next weekend but decided to call off the celebration.
‘I just join many other New Zealanders who have had an experience like that as a result of the pandemic and to anyone who’s caught up in that scenario, I am so sorry,’ she said.
The so-called ‘red setting’ of New Zealand’s pandemic response includes heightened measures such as mandatory mask-wearing and limits on gatherings.
Ms Ardern stressed that ‘red is not lockdown’, confirming businesses can remain open and people can still visit family and friends and move freely around the country.
‘Our plan for managing Omicron cases in the early stage remains the same as Delta, where we will rapidly test, contact trace and isolate cases and contacts in order to slow the spread,’ the PM said.
New Zealand was among the few remaining countries to avoid Omicron, but Ms Ardern acknowledged an outbreak was always inevitable.
The country has managed to contain the spread of the Delta variant, with an average of about 20 new cases each day.
But it has seen an increasing number of people arriving into the country who are infected with Omicron.
It has put a strain on its mandatory quarantine system and prompted ministers to limit access for returning nationals, while it decides what to do about reopening its borders.
About 93% of New Zealanders aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated and 52% have had a booster shot.
Children aged between 5 and 11 are now being vaccinated.
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