By NICK PERRY – Associated Press
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand will remove many of its COVID-19 pandemic mandates over the next two weeks as an outbreak of the omicron variant begins to wane.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Wednesday that people will no longer need to be vaccinated to visit places like retail stores, restaurants and bars from April 4. It will also be abolished the obligation to scan QR barcodes in these places.
A vaccination mandate will be scrapped for some workers – including teachers, police officers and waiters – although it will continue for health and aged care workers, border workers and prison officers.
The 100-person outdoor limit also disappeared from Friday. This will allow some concerts and major sporting events like marathons to resume. An indoor limit of 100 people will be increased to 200 people, and may later be removed altogether.
Staying in place is a requirement that people wear masks in many enclosed spaces, including in stores, on public transport and, for children 8 and older, in classrooms.
Ardern said the government’s actions over the past two years to limit the spread of the coronavirus had saved thousands of lives and helped the economy.
“But although we succeeded, it was also very difficult,” Ardern said.
“Everyone had to give up something for it to work, and some more than others,” she said.
The changes mean that many restrictions will be removed before tourists start returning to New Zealand.