COVID digest: New Zealand to reopen for vaccinated travelers in April | News | DW | 24.11.2021

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COVID digest: New Zealand to reopen for vaccinated travelers in April

New Zealand will reopen its borders in stages over time. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that the Europe would see many more deaths during the winter. Follow DW for the latest.

A passenger arrives from New Zealand after the Trans-Tasman travel bubble opened overnight

New Zealand's border has been closed to all but citizens and residents, with a few exceptions, since March 2020

New Zealand will allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter the country from April 30, the government announced on Wednesday.

The Pacific island nation has enforced some of the world's strictest border restrictions since the pandemic hit in March 2020.

The country's COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealanders stranded in Australia would be able to return home from mid-January, while nationals traveling from elsewhere would be allowed in a month later.

"We acknowledge it's been tough, but the end of heavily restricted travel is now in sight," Hipkins told reporters.

Foreigners will have to wait until the end of April to enter New Zealand under the blueprint for a phased reopening unveiled on Wednesday.

"A phased approach to reconnecting with the world is the safest approach to ensure risk is carefully managed," Hipkins said. "This reduces any potential impacts on vulnerable communities and the New Zealand health system."

Watch video 12:06

COVID-19 Special: Germany's health sector struggles

Here are the latest major developments on coronavirus from around the world:

Europe

Slovakia on Wednesday approved a two-week national lockdown to take effect Friday in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

The temporary measures will close restaurants and non-essential businesses and applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. Schools will remain open and unvaccinated will be required to take a coronavirus test to go to work.

Under the lockdown, people are only allowed to leave their home for specific reasons like buying essential goods, traveling to work, school or doctor's appointments.

On Tuesday, Slovakia registered more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours for the first time. The Health Ministry said cases had reached a "critical point."

The head of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has said that booster shots should be considered for all adults, with priority for those "above 40 years of age."

Andrea Ammon noted that boosters should be administered at least six months after completing the initial vaccine dose or doses.

"Available evidence emerging from Israel and the UK shows a significant increase in protection against infection and severe disease following a booster dose in all age groups in the short term," the ECDC said.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has tested negative for COVID-19. De Croo took a test after meeting his French counterpart, Jean Castex, on Monday, with the French PM subsequently testing positive for the virus.

A statement from his office said that De Croo "will continue to do an important part of his work remotely."

Authorities in France will be announcing new COVID-19 measures amid a surge in infections, while trying to avoid a lockdown.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal told members of the media that the country wanted to avoid broader curbs on public life.

"We must protect the French people by building on what we have, to save the end-of-year festivities and get through the winter as well as possible," Attal said.

The spokesman also pointed out that health passes were one of the reasons why infection rates were lower than in other countries.

Watch video 01:59

French restaurants adopt health pass for staff

Germany reported 66,884 new infections and 335 deaths on Wednesday, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute, the country's public health authority. In total, more than 5.4 million cases have been registered and 99,768 people have died.

The seven-day incidence rate hit a new record of 404.5 on Wednesday. This is the first time the incidence rate — new infections per 100,000 people per week — has gone over 400 since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Germany's new government will be setting aside one billion euros in bonuses for healthcare workers who have been battling the pandemic. Chancellor-in-waiting Olaf Scholtz made the announcement on Wednesday.

"The caregivers in hospitals and homes who are facing particular demands will be granted a bonus payment," Scholtz said as the new government’s policy roadmap was revealed for the first time. An amount of one billion euros had been set aside for this "care bonus."

Amid the spike in infections, the German Football League (DFL) will not be shutting down the country's two top divisions, despite more players and staff test positive for COVID-19.

There have been calls for football authorities to stop play for the rest of the year.

Speaking to German tabloid Bild, the president of second division team "Erzebirge Aue," Helge Leonhardt, said a lockdown was needed.

"We need a football lockdown until the end of December. The next four weeks will be extremely difficult for our country and will be an acid test for us. Smart and orderly action will be required, not chaotic action," Leonhardt told Bild.

The DFL said it would act in accordance with federal regulations and a "season interruption" is not on the cards.

The Netherlands reimposed its 1.5-meter social-distancing rule in some public spaces, designed to make it harder for people to spread the virus.

Those who violate this rule could be fined €95 ($107), the Ministry of Justice announced in The Hague on Tuesday.

The rule would not apply in restaurants and in the cultural sector since only those who show proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or a recent negative test are given entry.

In Ukraine over 1000 anti-vaccine protesters demonstrated on the streets of Kyiv. Protesters are unhappy with COVID-19 restrictions as the country experiences record numbers of infections and deaths.

Authorities also want government employees along with teachers and doctors to be fully vaccinated by December 1. Currently on 23% of the population of 41-million is fully vaccinated.

The World Health Organization said about 700,000 more people could die of COVID-19 by next spring in Europe, which remains "in the firm grip" of the virus.

Asia

South Korea's new daily infections exceeded 4,000 in a day for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said most of the new 4,116 cases reported on Wednesday came from the capital Seoul and its surrounding metropolitan region.

adi, jsi/msh (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)