NZ brings in ‘world’s toughest border restrictions’ to fight coronavirus

New Zealand will require everyone arriving in the country to isolate themselves for 14 days in an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus.

New Zealand has just six confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the new rules, which come in from midnight Sunday local time, will mean New Zealand has the toughest restrictions in the world.

In other developments across the world:

In comments reported by Radio NZ, she said: “Cabinet made far reaching and unprecedented decisions today because these are unprecedented circumstances.

“As of midnight Sunday every person entering New Zealand, including returning New Zealand citizens and residents, will be required to enter self isolation for 14 days – everybody.”

However, she added that there would be an exemption for Pacific islands, with arrivals from that region required to isolate themselves only if they show any virus symptoms.

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She said: “This decision will mean New Zealand will have the widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world.”

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The move comes after a similar one from Israel, which has said all arrivals will have to isolate themselves for two weeks.

Ms Ardern added: “We are also encouraging New Zealanders to avoid all non-essential travel overseas – this helps reduce the risk of a New Zealander bringing COVID-19 in.

“We do not take these decisions lightly, we know these travel restrictions will place a significant strain on the aviation industry and we anticipate some routes will reduce or cease for a period of time.”

The measures will be reviewed in 16 days.

New Zealand’s border is already closed to international visitors who have travelled to China or Iran, while people arriving from Italy and South Korea, must go into quarantine for 14 days.

All cruise ships will also be banned until 30 June, although cargo ships will still be allowed.

There will also be new border exit rules for those travelling to the Pacific, where the health system is not well developed and unlikely to cope with a widespread outbreak.

There will be no travel to the islands for people who have travelled outside of New Zealand in the past 14 days, no travel for close or casual contacts of a confirmed case, no travel for anyone who is a confirmed case, and no travel for anyone who has symptoms.

WHO: Europe is new epicentre of pandemic

Meanwhile, the European Union has urged member states to use health screening at their borders to try to tackle the virus’s spread.

One of the worst outbreaks of the disease is in Italy, where there are more than 17,000 confirmed cases, 1,266 deaths, with about 1,400 people having recovered.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said preliminary checks for signs of infection could be done at borders between the 26 nations that make up the passport-free Schengen Area, but also at the EU’s external borders and within individual countries.

She added: “We’ve seen travel bans and controls being put in place in a number of member states.

“Certain controls may be justified, but general travel bans are not seen as being the most effective by the World Health Organisation. Moreover, they have a strong social and economic impact. They disrupt people’s lives and business across the borders.”

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This has not stopped a number of countries making their own moves.

Poland has closed its borders, denying foreigners entry unless they live in Poland or have personal ties to the country. Those who are let in have to be quarantined for 14 days.

It comes after World Health Organisation director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Europe had become the “epicentre of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of world combined apart from China”.

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