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Asia Minute: New Zealand is facing new COVID challenges

Virus Outbreak New Zealand coronavirus test covid test
Mark Baker/AP
FILE - Medical staff take a COVID-19 test from a visitor at a drive-through community-based assessment center in Christchurch, New Zealand, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

COVID cases are increasing in many parts of the world. But countries are also adjusting to new expectations, including New Zealand.

In the early days of the pandemic, New Zealand was one of the most successful countries in dealing with the coronavirus.

For a time, the government pursued a “zero-COVID” policy — with extensive testing, travel restrictions, and occasional lockdowns.

When vaccinations reached a high level of the population, the government eased restrictions.

New cases rose — and so did hospitalizations — peaking in March.

After a decline, hospitalizations are rising again — and deaths from the virus are setting records.

Health officials are sticking with their strategy of encouraging vaccines and masks — but not restricting the size of gatherings.

Masks are required in many indoor locations — from shopping malls to grocery stores. They’re also required while using public transport.

The country is welcoming travelers from most countries — and will fully reopen its borders this coming Sunday.

It’s wintertime in New Zealand — flu season — and health officials are concerned about the growing number of fatalities.

New Zealand’s Director-General of Health told reporters last week the government continues to monitor the situation, but added “at this stage, we don’t see anything which would indicate the need to change our public health settings.”

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