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Asia Minute: New Zealand moves to 'Phase 2' in battling omicron variant

Jacinda Ardern new zealand prime minister coronavirus
Mark Mitchell/AP
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gestures during her COVID-19 response and vaccine update in Wellington, New Zealand, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021. (Mark Mitchell/Pool Photo via AP)

While coronavirus numbers are coming down across the islands, recovery is a bit more complicated in some parts of the Asia Pacific. That includes New Zealand, which is moving into a new phase of dealing with the virus.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister says her country is heading for “a period of disruption and…of risk” when it comes to the pandemic.

The country has been one of the most successful in the world in keeping case counts and deaths to a minimum compared to other locations — just 51 deaths through all of 2020 and 2021.

But new cases are spiking — 454 new infections set a record this past Saturday — surpassed by 810 new cases the very next day and nearly 1,000 on Monday.

New Zealand’s government has now moved into “Phase 2” of its response to the omicron variant.

Contact tracing has been scaled back. The country now has nearly 5,000 active cases from the last three weeks alone.

New Zealand’s director-general of health says the priorities of tracing outbreaks will focus on places like long-term care centers for the elderly, and other health care facilities, prisons, and other places where he says “there might have been the risk of a super-spreader type event.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and other leaders are urging residents to get booster shots.

According to government figures, more than 90% of eligible adults in New Zealand have been fully vaccinated, but fewer than a third have received boosters.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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