After two years of harsh and emotionally devastating border controls, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the country will finally relax expensive hotel quarantine requirements for returning Kiwis.
It will happen in stages, starting with New Zealand citizens coming from Australia; international students will be barred until April. But the test won’t be this initial reopening, but Ardern’s mettle as Covid-19 cases inevitably start to rise.
New Zealand has seen only 53 deaths and has gone into snap lockdowns at even the hint of a case. But as with other countries who were stuck in the zero Covid-19 Catch-22, convincing New Zealanders that they will need to accept even a low level of the virus will be a challenge.
In Australia, which pursued a similar policy until the end of last year, the anxiety is palpable. After two years of ingraining a deep fear of Covid-19 into its citizens, Australian politicians have struggled to make the case that, even with vaccines, the world will not implode.