New Zealand removes final COVID-19 restrictions after three years

New Zealand’s government will lift all remaining COVID-19 re-quirements from midnight Tuesday, bringing an end to some of the toughest COVID-19 pandemic rules in the world more than three years after they were put in place.

Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall said in a statement on Monday that from Tuesday people will no longer have to wear a face mask in health care facilities or isolate for seven days after contracting the virus.

“While our case numbers will continue to fluctuate, we have not seen the dramatic peaks that characterized COVID-19 rates last year. This, paired with the population’s immunity levels, means Cabinet and I am advised we’re positioned to safely remove the remaining COVID-19 requirements,” Verrall said.

Most of the restrictions were removed last year as vaccination rates reached high levels and the country’s hospitals successfully navigated a winter without being overwhelmed.

The decision to remove the requirements comes just two months out from a closely contested election.

While the New Zealand government’s handling of the pandemic was globally recognized for keeping infection and death rates at low levels, domestically it faced criticism for the extended lock-downs, school closures and closed borders.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the formal end of restrictions was a “significant milestone.”

“I believe that New Zealanders can be enormously proud of what we achieved together. We stayed home, we made sacrifices, we got vaccinated and there is absolutely no question that we saved lives,” he told his weekly press conference.

While no longer mandatory, the Minister of Health still recommends that people stay home for five days if you’re unwell or have tested positive.

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