The prime minister announced on Sunday that the country will face new restrictions after nine cases of the Omicron variant were detected in a single family that flew to Auckland for a wedding earlier this month.
Described as the “red setting”, New Zealand’s pandemic response includes heightened measures such as compulsory mask-wearing and limits on gatherings. They will come into effect on Monday.
Ms Ardern also announced that due to these new restrictions, her own wedding to long-time partner Mr Gayford will not currently take place. Though she had not announced a date, the wedding was expected to be imminent.
“My wedding will not be going ahead,” she said. “I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill. That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience.”
The prime minister also shared her plans to cope with Omicron outbreaks in 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,” Ms Ardern told reporters.
New Zealand had been among the few remaining countries to have avoided any Omicron outbreaks, but Ms Ardern acknowledged last week that an outbreak was inevitable given the high transmissibility of the variant.
The country had managed to contain the spread of the Delta variant, with an average of about 20 new cases each day. But an increasing number of people who reached the country recently and went into mandatory quarantine were infected with Omicron.
That has put strain on the quarantine system and prompted the government to limit access for returning citizens, while it decides what to do about reopening its borders, angering many people who want to return to New Zealand.
About 93 per cent of New Zealanders aged 12 and above are fully vaccinated, while 52 per cent have had a booster shot. The country has just begun vaccinating children aged between 5 and 11.
Additional reporting by agencies
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