New Zealand suspends entry for travellers from India due to high COVID-19 cases


FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern participates in a televised debate with National leader Judith Collins at TVNZ in Auckland, New Zealand, September 22, 2020. Fiona Goodall/Pool via REUTERS

WELLINGTON (Reuters) -New Zealand on Thursday temporarily suspended entry for all travellers from India, including its own citizens, for about two weeks following a high number of positive coronavirus cases arriving from the South Asian country.

The move comes after New Zealand recorded 23 new positive coronavirus cases at its border on Thursday, of which 17 were from India.

"We are temporarily suspending entry into New Zealand for travellers from India," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a news conference in Auckland.

India has recorded 12.8 million COVID-19 cases, the most after the United States and Brazil. It is now battling a deadly second wave of infections, and this week the number of daily new cases passed the peak of the first wave seen last September.

The suspension will start from 1600 local time on April 11 and will be in place until April 28. During this time the government will look at risk management measures to resume travel.

The suspension applies to anyone who has been in India during the past 14 days. It is the first time that New Zealand has extended any bar on entry to its own citizens and residents.

"I want to emphasize 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.

New Zealand has virtually eliminated the virus within its borders, and has not reported any community transmission locally for about 40 days.

But it has been reviewing its border settings as more infected people have been arriving recently, most of them from India.

Pre-departure testing requirements reduced the number of positive cases coming from other countries but that's not been the case with India, Ardern said.

"We have looked into whether or not we have issues with accuracy of the pre-departure tests. That has not demonstrated that that's where the problem lies. So this suspension gives us the time to look at the problem more generally," she said.

New Zealand on Thursday also reported one new locally infected case in a worker who was employed at a coronavirus managed isolation facility.

(Reporting by Praveen MenonEditing by Shri Navaratnam & Simon Cameron-Moore)

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