(USNewsMag.com) – The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the world for more than two years and people across the globe are itching to get back to normal. Restrictions have hindered and kept them from living lives as usual. Now, another country is taking steps to return to normalcy.
Throughout the pandemic, New Zealand has had some of the toughest restrictions in place. It closed its borders to outside travelers and maintained some of the harshest lockdown measures. However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern thinks it’s time to turn the corner and start lifting some of the restrictions once this current wave has run its course.
New Zealand is currently dealing with the Omicron variant, with 20,087 new cases reported as of Wednesday, March 16, bringing the official total to just over 500,000. Modelers believe the country has hit its peak, which has prompted Arden to start dialing back mandates. For starters, there will be no more limits on outdoor gatherings and indoor venues can increase their capacity limits from 100 to 200, beginning Friday, March 25.
Then, beginning April 4, indoor restaurants, shops and venues will no longer need to scan the vaccine passes that have been in place for over a year. Certain fields of employment, including education, defense, and police will no longer face vaccine mandates, as well. However, older citizens in aged care, border control, correctional and health facilities will still need to comply.
Arden touts the country’s vaccination rates, along with improved data, as reasons she believes it’s time to reverse course. She said, however, the country’s COVID traffic-light system will still remain in place, but with more flexibility. “COVID is still with us and it will be for some time to come, that’s why we are keeping in place our COVID protection framework.” Arden also said while it’s not the end, it can be considered “a new beginning.”
Will the US Follow Suit?
Since New Zealand has some of the toughest restrictions in the world and is finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, it stands to reason that maybe this will lead the United States to do the same. While legislators have let many restrictions expire, there are still mandates in place in some states and on public transportation, such as airlines.
While vaccine passes never became mainstream in the US like they did in other countries, many places still require proof of vaccination to either enter the venue. Some cities, like New York, even require athletes to be inoculated in order to participate in home games.
Several lawmakers, including Rand Paul (R-KY), are fighting to lift these restrictions once and for all. So far, the US still has several mandates in place, but that could change as COVID-19 changes from pandemic to epidemic status.
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