New Zealand lifts most vaccine mandates as Omicron outbreak peaks ahead of Australian travelers’ return

New Zealand has announced the lifting of vaccine mandates for a number of sectors, including education and policing, from April 4, as the current COVID-19 outbreak approaches its peak.

New Zealand’s response to the pandemic won praise abroad and kept hospitalizations and deaths at a low level.

But public anger over persistent domestic restrictions has grown and reached a climax earlier this month during violent protests outside the nation’s parliament in Wellington.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said only those working with vulnerable people, such as the elderly and health sectors and frontier workers, should be vaccinated from 4 April.

Vaccine cards would also no longer be mandatory for visiting restaurants, coffee shops and other public spaces, she added.

“With more tools and one of the highest vaccinated populations in the world, we are able to continue to move safely forward,” Ms Ardern said as she announced the lifting of most mandates.

Protesters set fire to tents, mattresses and chairs
Protesters set fire to tents, mattresses and chairs in a March 2 protest in Wellington.(AP: Mark Mitchell / New Zealand Herald)

More than 95 percent of New Zealand’s population over the age of 12 has now received two vaccinations.

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