The New Zealand government on Thursday suspended entry to all people arriving from India on account of the surge in COVID-19 cases in the south Asian nation.
The suspension applies to all passengers reaching from India, including citizens of New Zealand, and will be in effect from 4pm (New Zealand time) on April 11 to April 28. The move came after New Zealand recorded 23 COVID-19 cases among passengers who arrived in the country on Thursday; 17 of these arrivals were from India.
Speaking at a press conference in Auckland, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was quoted by Reuters as saying, "We are temporarily suspending entry into New Zealand for travellers from India...I want to emphasise that while arrivals of COVID from India has prompted this measure, we are looking at how we manage high risk points of departure generally. This is not a country specific risk assessment."
"Ardern said the rolling average of positive cases has been steadily rising and hit 7 cases on Wednesday, the highest since last October. New Zealand on Thursday also reported one new locally infected case in a worker who was employed at a coronavirus managed isolation facility," Reuters reported. New Zealand had virtually eliminated COVID-19 within its borders and has not reported any community transmission for over a month.
Ardern acknowledged the difficulty the suspension of travel would create. "I absolutely understand the difficulty this temporary suspension will cause. I understand that, but I also feel a sense of responsibility and obligation to find ways to reduce risk that travellers are experiencing," Ardern was quoted as saying by Scoop, a New Zealand media outlet.
Ardern also hinted about doubts about accuracy of pre-departure COVID-19 tests. "We have looked into whether we have issues with the accuracy of pre-departure tests; that has not demonstrated that is where the problem lies, so this suspension gives us a bit of time to look at the issue more generally," she was quoted by Scoop as saying. Last year, Hong Kong had temporarily restricted Air India services, on account of doubts about efficacy of pre-departure COVID-19 tests in India.
In recent weeks, India has seen a massive surge in COVID-19 cases and has topped the global average in daily cases.