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New Zealand to drop isolation rule for arriving travelers vaccinated against COVID-19

New Zealand to drop isolation rule for arriving travelers vaccinated against COVID-19
A COVID-19 testing kiosk is seen at Los Angeles International Airport on November 18, 2020. The government of New Zealand said on Monday that travelers will no longer have to isolate when entering the country, beginning Wednesday.  File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 28 (UPI) -- New Zealand will lift a COVID-19 travel requirement this week that says vaccinated travelers entering the country must isolate for a week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday.

The isolation requirement has been in effect for months and is intended to keep foreign infections out of New Zealand.

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Ardern said on Monday, however, that the rule is no longer necessary as the coronavirus disease has become more endemic in New Zealand recently. The country has recently been seeing more than 10,000 new cases per day, which is dramatically more than it saw for the first two years of the pandemic.

The restriction will be lifted on Wednesday, Ardern said. However, all travelers must still provide a negative COVID-19 test to enter New Zealand.

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Unvaccinated citizens arriving in New Zealand must continue to quarantine for a time at hotels.

The change, at first, will affect only citizens of New Zealand -- as they are the only travelers allowed into the country. Tourists and foreign travelers have been barred for most of the pandemic.

"That means that all Kiwis coming home and tourists entering the country will be able to step off the plane and immediately connect with family and friends and enjoy all New Zealand has to offer," New Zealand COVID-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said, according to 7 News.

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The restriction is ending sooner than scheduled. The government had originally set March 13 as the expiration date.

Australian travelers will be allowed to enter New Zealand in July, and travelers from all other nations will be permitted in October. Ardern said Monday that those restrictions might also end early.

New Zealand has imposed a number of restrictions over the last two years to keep infection rates down. Recently, however, with the rise of the Omicron variant the country has moved closer to an endemic phase for COVID-19, which effectively makes restrictions unnecessary.

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