‘Red environment’, not a closure, but indoor hospitality venues and events will be limited to 100 people with vaccine passes.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern canceled her marriage because the country imposed new restrictions to slow down the community spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.
The so-called “red environment” of the country’s pandemic response includes increased measures such as required mask wear and restrictions on gatherings; the restrictions will take effect Monday.
Indoor hospitality establishments such as pubs and restaurants along with events such as weddings will be limited to 100 people. The limit is reduced to 25 people if premises do not use vaccine passes.
Ardern stressed that “red is not locked up,” noting that businesses can stay open and that people can still visit family and friends and move freely through the country.
“Our early-stage management of Omicron cases remains the same as Delta, where we will quickly test, locate and isolate cases and contacts to slow down the spread,” Ardern told reporters in Wellington on Sunday.
New Zealand was one of the few remaining countries to avoid any outbreaks of the Omicron variant, but Ardern acknowledged last week that an outbreak was inevitable given the high portability of the variant.
The country has managed to limit the distribution of the Delta variant, with an average of about 20 new cases each day. But it has seen an increasing number of people arrive in the country and go into compulsory quarantine infected with Omicron.
This put the quarantine system under pressure and urged the government to restrict access for returning citizens while deciding what to do to reopen its borders, angering many people who want to return to New Zealand.
About 93 per cent of New Zealanders aged 12 and older were fully vaccinated, and 52 per cent had a booster shot. The country has just started vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11.
Ardern’s wedding postponed
The latest curbs come after nine cases of the Omicron variant were detected in a single family that flew to Auckland for a wedding earlier this month.
The Nelson-Marlborough area family attended a wedding and other events while in Auckland, with estimates suggesting that they had “come into contact with more than 100 people at these events,” Ardern said.
“This means that Omicron is now circulating in Auckland and possibly the Nelson-Marlborough region, if not elsewhere,” she added.
The move to the red environment also affects Ardern personally.
As the country moves into the red traffic light environment later tonight, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reminds people that the environment is not a constraint. Here’s what she still had to say about the move to red.
– RNZ (@radionz) 23 January 2022
The prime minister had planned to get married next weekend, but due to the new restrictions, the celebration will be postponed.
“I just join many other New Zealanders who have had such an experience as a result of the pandemic and to everyone caught up in that scenario, I’m so sorry,” she said.
“My wedding is not going on,” she added. Ardern has not announced her wedding date, but there are rumors that it is imminent.
When asked by reporters how she felt about the cancellation of her marriage to longtime partner and fishing program host Clarke Gayford, Ardern replied, “This is life.”