WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s government will lift all remaining COVID-19 requirements from midnight on Tuesday, ending some of the world’s toughest coronavirus rules more than three years after they were put in place.
Starting Tuesday, people will not have to wear face masks in healthcare facilities or isolate for seven days after contracting the virus, Health Minister Aisha Verral said in a statement on Monday.
While our case numbers will continue to fluctuate, we haven’t seen the dramatic peaks that marked COVID-19 rates last year. This, along with the population’s immunity levels, means Cabinet and I have advised that we are in a safe position to safely remove the remaining COVID-19 requirements,” Verrall said.
Most restrictions were removed last year as vaccination rates reached high levels and the country’s hospitals made it through the winter without being overwhelmed.
The decision to remove the requirement comes just two months after a hotly contested election.
While the New Zealand government’s handling of the pandemic has been globally recognized for keeping infection and death rates at low levels, domestically it has faced criticism for extended lockdowns, school closures and closed borders.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the official end to restrictions was an “important milestone”.
“I think New Zealanders can be very proud of what we have achieved together. We have stayed home, made sacrifices, been vaccinated and there is absolutely no doubt that we have saved lives,” he said in his weekly news conference.
Although it is no longer mandatory, the Minister of Health still recommends that people stay home for five days if they are sick or test positive for the virus.
Lucy Kramer reports. Edited by Lincoln Feast
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