New Zealand Will Reopen to Tourists Within Months

, New Zealand Will Reopen to Tourists Within Months, The Habari News New York
Image, New Zealand Will Reopen to Tourists Within Months, The Habari News New York
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New Zealand plans to allow most fully vaccinated travelers into the country by the end of April without a mandatory hotel quarantine, as it slowly emerges from what has been one of the world’s longest lockdowns.

But those entering the country next year will face significant restrictions, with a mandatory seven-day home isolation period, as well as tests on departure and arrival. The border will open in stages to different countries, with fully vaccinated New Zealanders and visa holders able to travel from Australia from Jan. 16 and from elsewhere in the world starting Feb. 13. Foreign nationals will follow from April 30.

Experts have for weeks questioned the need for requiring new arrivals to quarantine when the virus is already in the community, and experts say international arrivals seem to pose no additional risk. No fully vaccinated travelers from Australia, for example, have tested positive in New Zealand’s hotel quarantine system since Aug. 23.

Some 84 percent of people in New Zealand age 12 and up are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. And representatives from the country’s tourism industry, which has struggled to contend with the long absence of foreign visitors, decried the seven-day isolation requirement.

New Zealand has been on edge since August, when an outbreak of the Delta variant erupted in Auckland and put an end to the country’s “zero Covid” approach.

“It’s very encouraging that we as a country are now in a position to move towards greater normality,” Chris Hipkins, the minister responsible for New Zealand’s pandemic response, said at a news conference on Wednesday. “I do want to emphasize, though, that travel in 2022 won’t necessarily be exactly the same as it was in pre-2020 travel.”

For over a year, New Zealand has operated a lottery system for citizens and permanent residents who want to return, locking people out of the country and creating a large backlog. The system has faced legal challenges from people desperate to return home from overseas and be reunited with their families.

New Zealand is waiting until April to fully open to permit time for airlines to plan, he said, as well as to allow a transition to the country’s new “traffic light” pandemic management system that starts Dec. 2. That system will end lockdowns and place significant restrictions on the unvaccinated, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced at a news conference on Monday.

On Dec. 15, Auckland — where the country’s outbreak is concentrated — will open its border to the rest of the country.

Before the pandemic, tourism was a big part of the New Zealand economy, employing nearly 230,000 people and contributing 41.9 billion New Zealand dollars ($30.2 billion) a year. About 3.8 million foreign tourists visited between 2018 and 2019, with the majority coming from Australia. Though domestic tourism has surged while borders have been closed, the industry has struggled to make up its losses, as international tourists spend about three times as much per person as their domestic peers.

Defending New Zealand’s caution, Mr. Hipkins pointed to the new virus wave that is crashing through Europe. “As we move into 2022, we know that the pandemic is not over,” he said. “It’s not going to suddenly end, and we only need to look at Europe to know that the path out of the pandemic is not a straightforward one.”

Credit…Evgeniy Maloletka/Associated Press

Europe’s death toll from Covid will exceed two million people by next spring, the World Health Organization projected on Tuesday, adding that the continent remained “firmly in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Covid is now the leading cause of death in Europe, the agency said in a statement, with almost 4,200 new deaths a day, double the number at the end of September. To date, Europe, including Britain and Russia, has reported 1.5 million deaths. Between now and spring, hospital beds in 25 countries and intensive care units in 49 countries are predicted to experience “high or extreme stress,” the W.H.O. said.

Dr. Hans Kluge, a regional director for the W.H.O., said Europe faced a challenging winter. “In order to live with this virus and continue our daily lives, we need to take a ‘vaccine plus’ approach,” he said.

That means getting vaccinations or booster shots if offered and taking other preventive measures to avoid the reimposing of lockdowns, like calling on the public to wear masks and maintain physical distance, he said.

Over a billion vaccine doses have been administered in Europe; about 53 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. But countries have gaping disparities in vaccination rates, the organization said, and it was essential to drive the lagging rates up, the officials said.

In recent days, European countries have imposed restrictions to try to curb the highest surge of new cases in the region since the pandemic began. Austria began its fourth lockdown on Monday, and Germany is pressuring its citizens to get vaccinated. Slovakia, Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic have the world’s highest rates of new cases in proportion to their populations.

The W.H.O. considers Europe to include not only the countries of the European Union, but also Britain, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, and several countries in the Balkans and Central Asia.

After a steady decline since mid-September, coronavirus cases are once again rising in most of the United States. New cases have increased by 25 percent nationally in the past two weeks. In 14 states, cases have climbed by 40 percent or more.

Credit…Kenny Holston for The New York Times

This was supposed to be the year vaccines brought the pandemic under control. Instead, more people in the United States have died from Covid-19 this year than died last year, before vaccines were available.

As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recorded 386,233 deaths involving Covid-19 in 2021, compared with 385,343 in 2020. The final number for this year will be higher, not only because there is more than a month left but because it takes time for local agencies to report deaths to the C.D.C.

Covid-19 has also accounted for a higher percentage of U.S. deaths this year than it did last year: about 13 percent compared with 11 percent.

Experts say the higher death toll is a result of a confluence of factors: most crucially lower-than-needed vaccination rates, but also the relaxation of everyday precautions, like masks and social distancing, and the rise of the highly contagious Delta variant.

, New Zealand Will Reopen to Tourists Within Months, The Habari News New York

Essentially, public health experts said, many Americans are behaving as though Covid-19 is now a manageable, endemic disease rather than a crisis — a transition that will happen eventually but has not happened yet.

Yet many are also refusing to get vaccinated in the numbers required to make that transition to what scientists call “endemicity,” which would mean the virus would still circulate at a lower level with periodic increases and decreases, but not spike in the devastating cycles that have characterized the pandemic. Just 59 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, the lowest rate of any Group of 7 nation.

“We have the very unfortunate situation of not a high level of vaccine coverage and basically, in most places, a return to normal behaviors that put people at greater risk of coming in contact with the virus,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “If you take no protections whatsoever, you have a virus that is capable of moving faster and you have dangerous gaps in immunity, that adds up to, unfortunately, a lot of continued serious illness and deaths.”

Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease specialist at Bellevue Hospital Center, estimated that roughly 15 percent of the U.S. population might have immunity from prior infection, which is not as strong or durable as immunity from vaccines.

Many of those people have also been vaccinated, but even assuming the two groups didn’t overlap and so 74 percent of Americans had some level of immunity, that still would not be enough to end the pandemic, said Dr. Gounder. It would probably take an 85 to 90 percent vaccination rate to make the coronavirus endemic, she said.

“When vaccines rolled out, people in their minds said, ‘Covid is over,’” Dr. Gounder said. “And so even if not enough people are vaccinated, their behavior returned — at least for some people — to more normal, and with that changing behavior you have an increase in transmission.”

Some news outlets reported last week that confirmed 2021 deaths had surpassed 2020 deaths. Those reports stemmed from counts of deaths based on when the deaths were reported, not when they happened — meaning some deaths from late 2020 were counted in early 2021. The C.D.C. counts, which did not show that mark being reached until this week, are more accurate because they are based on the dates on death certificates.

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Two actors have left one of America’s most popular soap operas after declining to comply with an on-set vaccination mandate.

The actors, Steve Burton and Ingo Rademacher, were fixtures of ABC’s “General Hospital,” a long-running daytime drama set in the fictional town of Port Charles, N.Y.

About one in five American adults has not received a single dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Mr. Burton and Mr. Rademacher were outspoken opponents of a coronavirus vaccine mandate that applied to a part of the set where actors work unmasked, known in the industry as Zone A. The mandate took effect on Nov. 1.

“Unfortunately, ‘General Hospital’ has let me go because of the vaccine mandate,” Mr. Burton, who tested positive for the virus in August and filmed his last episode on Oct. 27, said in an Instagram video on Tuesday.

“I did apply for my medical and religious exemptions and both of those were denied — which, you know, hurts,” he added. “But this is also about personal freedom to me. I don’t think anyone should lose their livelihood over this.”

Mr. Rademacher’s departure from the show was made public earlier this month. He had also refused to comply with the show’s vaccine mandate. “I will stand with you to fight for medical freedom,” he wrote in an Instagram post.

Mr. Rademacher has also been criticized on social media in recent weeks for making comments that his critics perceived to be transphobic, a suggestion he has forcefully denied.

Representatives for ABC declined to comment on the record. Publicists for the actors could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Other Hollywood productions have imposed similar on-set mandates, but there is no universal vaccination requirement for people who work in film and television.

“General Hospital” has been on the air since 1963. Its episodes are filmed weeks before they air.

Mr. Rademacher played the character Jasper “Jax” Jacks on the show for 25 years. In his last episode, which aired on Monday, the character said — spoiler alert — that he would be returning to Australia.

“I’m kind of on the outs with everyone in Port Charles right now,” the character said. Some fans interpreted that as a reference to the actor’s real-life tension with his castmates.

In the same episode, Mr. Burton’s character, Jason Morgan, was caught up in a tunnel collapse.

Mr. Burton said in his Instagram video on Tuesday that he hoped the show’s vaccine mandate would be lifted so that he could finish his career playing Jason Morgan.

“And if not,” he added, “I’m going to take this experience, move forward and be forever grateful.”