COVID: New Zealand to reopen its borders in October
Wellington, Feb 03: New Zealand on Thursday announced a phased reopening of its border and the easing of some of its entry restrictions.
The Pacific Island nation had imposed one of the world's strictest border controls and largely cut itself off from the rest of the world for two years in response to the coronavirus pandemic, pursuing a so-called "zero COVID" policy.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday announced a five-step plan to fully reopen the country's border by October.
It will begin with ending mandatory stay at state-managed quarantine facilities for New Zealanders stranded overseasby the pandemic.
Vaccinated Kiwis in Australia will be able to return home from February 27, and self-isolate rather than undergoing a 10-day hotel quarantine.
New Zealanders in the rest of the world will be able to do the same two weeks later, Ardern said.
The same option will be made available to foreign vaccinated backpackers and some skilled workers from March 13, and to international students from April 12.
Vaccinated tourists from Australia and other visa-free countries will be allowed in by July, and while those from other countries will able to enter October onward.
Ardern said they will still have to self-isolate for 10 days after arriving in New Zealand. It's not the first time New Zealand has raised hopes of reopening gradually, but fresh developments, most recently the omicron variant, prompted Ardern's government to shelve the previous plans.
Here are the latest major developments on coronavirus from around the world:
The United States Army said it will start discharging soldiers who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Unvaccinated Soldiers present a risk to the force and jeopardize readiness," said Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth.
"We will begin involuntary separation proceedings for Soldiers who refuse the vaccine order and are not pending a final decision on an exemption," she said in a statement.
According to the army's data released last week, more than 3,000 soldiers had refused to comply with the mandatory vaccine rule.
Canada's capital Ottawa had been paralyzed by a truckers' protest against vaccine mandates over the weekend. Police warned that while most protesters have left, the stragglers are "determined" and "volatile."
Ottawa's police chief said there were signs that guns were brought into the protest and suggested that the Canadian military may need to be called in to help clear them.
"Most demonstrators have left. What remains is a highly determined and highly volatile group of unlawful individuals," Chief Peter Sloly said. "We have had an indication around firearms coming into this jurisdiction as part of this demonstration as much as a week and a half ago."
The Czech parliament has approved a new COVID-19 bill which will allow the authorities to tighten restrictions.
The legislation will make it possible to close shops, set testing requirements, and restrict school operations. As the law was being passed, protesters paraded in front of the parliament building in Prague on Wednesday carrying fake gallows.
Italy will soon roll back its COVID-19 curbs in a phased manner, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Wednesday, as the omicron-driven surge in cases began to slow.
The country's Council of Ministers also decided that foreigners will be allowed to go into hotels and restaurants even if they are not vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19. They will, however, have to present a negative test report.
Germany will allow up to 10,000 spectators at major outdoor events such as Bundesliga soccer games, the 16 federal states agreed.
Meanwhile, the country's interior ministry said several individual German right-wing extremists had been spotted at anti-restriction protests in other countries.
"The government has isolated knowledge of the participation of right-wing extremists in demonstrations against coronavirus policy in other European countries," the ministry said in a statement.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported a record 236,120 new infections on Thursday. The nationwide seven-day incidence also rose to a record high of 1283.2 cases per 100,000 people per week.
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