Jacinda Ardern lashes out at UK’s ‘unacceptable’ new Covid policy and warns of travel ban
Boris Johnson praised for ending lockdown by Mark Dolan
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The prime minister of New Zealand has dismissed suggestions she could repeat Mr Johnson’s plans to lift all Covid restrictions later this month, with Ms Ardern claiming the number of deaths proposed by the UK Prime Minister would be “unacceptable”. The anticipated surge in Covid infections and deaths following England’s lockdown easing on July 19 would not be justifiable in New Zealand, the country’s COVID-19 response minister has said.
The country has even gone as far to say that if cases of COVID-19 surge in the wake of the lifted restrictions, New Zealand could ban Kiwis from travelling to the country, in a major blow to the UK’s tourism industry and families hoping to reunite this summer.
On Monday, Mr Johnson announced that the planned lockdown easing on July 19 will go ahead as scheduled.
This means rules on face masks and social distancing will be scrapped, allowing mass gatherings to go ahead.
The Prime Minister acknowledged that in doing so cases and deaths are likely to rise, but he told Britons they must “learn to live with” COVID-19.
He said: “We must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from Covid.”
But in response, New Zealand officials have said they would not be looking to imitate such a policy as they are keen to keep Covid related deaths to a minimum.
Chris Hipkins, the country’s COVID-19 response minister, told a press conference on Tuesday: “That’s not something that we have been willing to accept in New Zealand.”
Instead, the minister said the country would be more cautious with its approach to lockdown easing.
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He said: “One of the things the UK Government has been very clear about [is] that there will be a spike in cases, potentially thousands of cases a day. There will be more people dying.
“We are likely to see more incremental change than dramatic change where we wake up one morning and say: ‘We just go back to the way things were before COVID-19.’”
Ms Ardern, who has been widely praised for her response to the pandemic, acknowledged that countries would be taking different approaches to the easing of restrictions but hinted New Zealand would not be making any drastic changes.
She said: “Different countries are taking different choices.
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“The priority for me is how do we continue to preserve what New Zealand has managed to gain and give ourselves options, because this virus is not done with the world yet.”
Ashley Bloomfield, the director-general of health, said New Zealand would be “watching closely” to see the effect of England’s lockdown easing.
He said if cases surge, they could decide to place the UK on a no-fly list.
The public health official said: “If they do get an increase in cases, we will be keeping a close eye on what that means for the risk of people traveling from the UK and that will inform our decisions here.”
New Zealand has managed to keep cases and deaths very low throughout the entirety of the pandemic, having locked down far earlier than other countries.
They have seen a total of 2,763 cases and just 26 deaths.
This compares to the UK, which has seen almost five million cases of the virus and over 128,000 deaths.
The World Health Organisation has praised New Zealand for acting quickly and have held it as an example to other countries.
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