New Zealand

New Zealanders “Desperate to Leave” as Thousands Flee “Controlling and Fearful” Jacinda Ardern

Borders were opened to New Zealanders and Australians in February and March, and now visitors from around 60 countries, including Britain, can enter the country if they are vaccinated and test negative for COVID-19 before and after arriving. But while some tourists willing to brave the testing gauntlet are starting to trickle into the country, Kiwis are fleeing the country en masse. GB News has the story.

Government officials have estimated 50,000 New Zealanders will flee the country over the next year as the borders reopen after two years of Covid-19 restricting travel.

Speaking exclusively to GB News, Act Party leader David Seymour says Jacinda Ardern and her Government’s policies have resulted in New Zealand experiencing a level of despair not seen for years.

He said: “Don’t believe the hype. Anyone can quarantine a remote island, the hard part was always going to be reconnecting and getting our way of life back.

“At that, Jacinda Ardern’s Government has failed. Tragicomically, her own rules mean she herself is now forced to isolate and miss parliament despite testing negative because her partner has Covid.”

Mr Seymour says the country is going in the wrong direction, and Kiwis are desperate to properly reconnect with the world.

He added: “New Zealand faces a hangover from its Covid measures in the form of a cost-of-living crisis, like many countries. What is different here is the despair that comes from being lectured to and restricted while the rest of the world moves on.

“The Government has blown a 25-point lead to trail the opposition just 18 months from the election, and the majority of New Zealanders say our country is going in the wrong direction for the first time since the GFC.

“We are hearing the phrase brain drain for the first time in a decade, hospitals report their nurses are leaving. It is dismal and we could be doing so much better.”

A spokesman for popular Facebook group for New Zealanders living in Britain, “Kiwis in London”, told GB News it has experienced a surge of interest from Kiwis desperate to make the move to Britain: “The people are sick and tired of the controlling narrative along with the fear campaign that has engulfed the media and government messaging for the past two years.”

The toothy tyrant is losing her grip.

Worth reading in full.

Prince Harry Launches New Eco-Project Telling People Who Fly to New Zealand on Holiday to Save the Planet by Re-using Their Towel

Prince Harry has starred in a skit promoting his new eco-travel project in which holidaymakers are “rated” on their green credentials. MailOnline has more.

In a five-minute video published on the YouTube page of the duke’s non-profit Travalyst today, the Queen’s grandson goes for a jog through California which doubles as the backdrop for “New Zealand woodland”.

He is then ambushed by “rating agent” Rhys Darby, who accuses him of dropping a lolly wrapper four years earlier on a trip to the country with wife Meghan.

The video, which also features Kiwi actors David Fane and Rena Owen, launches the first-ever initiative launched in New Zealand for the British prince’s non-profit Travalyst organisation, founded in 2019, in which holidaymakers, rather than holidays, are rated for how sustainable they are. Kiwis now have access to a rating tool on the Travalyst website as part of a pilot initiative encouraging travellers to consider sustainable options during planning for their next trip.

It is unclear why the Duke chose New Zealand for the project, but Harry is known to love the country and considered moving there with Meghan when they quit as frontline royals, before opting for LA instead. 

He told Māori television’s current affairs programme Te Ao with Moana: “The Māori culture inherently understands sustainable practices and taking better care of our life-giving land, which are critical lessons we can all learn and that is why I’m here with you to share a new kaupapa.'”

In the skit, Harry – who is dressed in a grey “Girl Dad” T-shirt and sporting Apple Airpod headphones – is at first given three stars out of five, and then three and a half – as stamps on his arm – for only using one towel and for buying local honey. He is also praised for not leaving the tap running while brushing his teeth.

Vaccinated Have Up To SIX Times the Infection Rate of Unvaccinated, New Zealand Government Data Show

New Zealand is a fascinating country – amazing geography, likeable population, and, unlike its neighbour Australia, most of its wildlife isn’t planning on killing you at the slightest opportunity. It is also fascinating with respect to Covid because its population has a very high vaccination rate across all age groups (well, down to five), but up until recently there has been negligible natural immunity to Covid. Because of these two factors, New Zealand was always going to be of interest as soon as Covid arrived properly, if only to see how its vaccination efforts had protected its population.

For those who missed it, since the end of last year New Zealand has had a succession of Covid waves. These started small, but in the most recent wave, taking place during February and March, infection rates were enormous – if we had these infection rates in the U.K. we’d have peaked at approximately 350,000 cases per day (rather than around 200,000). What’s more, it looks like New Zealand exceeded its testing capacity during that wave, suggesting that peak infections were probably even higher.  It is relevant to note that during February and March, New Zealand had over 90% of all the cases it has ever had and most of the rest occurred in January – prior to 2022 New Zealand reported very few Covid infections.

So much for the Covid vaccines protecting against infection – but what do the data look like in detail?

New Zealand Axes Vaccine Passports and Mandates Claiming Herd Immunity

Vaccine passports for domestic purposes are being axed in New Zealand, with mandates being removed in almost all industries, though not health and social care. Sky News has more.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the changes on Wednesday as she unveiled the country’s post-Omicron peak plan. 

Ms Ardern said cases had decreased significantly in Auckland, with a decline expected across the nation by early April. 

She added there had been more than 500,000 reported cases of COVID-19 in the country of five million, although “expert modellers say there have probably been 1.7 million actual infections”.

“That figure, coupled with 95% of New Zealanders being fully vaccinated, means we now have a high level of collective immunity,” Ms Ardern said. 

“New Zealanders have worked incredibly hard to get through this pandemic and as a result of those efforts we are now in a position to move forward and change the way we do things.

“First up we have simplified the COVID-19 Protection Framework to target restrictions at those activities that reduce transmission the most.”

As part of the sweeping changes, New Zealanders will no longer have to prove they are vaccinated to enter venues covered under My Vaccine Pass from early next month.  

“From April 4th, My Vaccine Pass will no longer be required by the Government meaning Kiwis will no longer have to be vaccinated in order to enter those venues covered by the Pass,” Ms Ardern said.

“Scanning in requirements for the vaccinated will also end. We recognise that some businesses, events or venues may still choose to use vaccine passes, so we will maintain the infrastructure for them.”

Changes to the vaccine mandates – which had sparked protests outside parliament in Wellington – will come into effect from the same date, with only some workforces still required to be vaccinated. 

“From April 4th, vaccine mandates will be removed, except for health and disability, aged care, corrections and border workforces,” Ms Ardern said. 

“Like many other countries we are retaining a small number of mandates targeted at keeping our COVID-19 frontline staff safe and to ensure our most vulnerable, like those in aged care facilities or those with disabilities, are protected from the virus. 

Baby steps from the Toothy Tyrant.

Worth reading in full.

Deadly Omicron Surge Hits South East Asia Despite High Vaccination Rates

South East Asian countries are experiencing their deadliest Covid waves to date despite the milder Omicron variant being dominant and high vaccination rates.

Here are the double-vaccination rates in South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong, plus New Zealand, with the U.K. included for comparison.

The graphs below show record highs of reported infections in each of these countries, particularly in South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand. They also show record levels of Covid deaths in South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, though not yet in Thailand and Singapore. New Zealand has hit record deaths, though at a low level so far. Japan’s and Singapore’s curves (infections and deaths) appear to have peaked, whereas South Korea, Hong Kong and New Zealand are still on the way up. Thailand’s reported infections appear to have peaked but not yet deaths.

New Zealand Finally Abandons Zero Covid Madness

Jacinda Arden has decided to scrap quarantine requirements for returning Kiwis, admitting that the number of Covid cases in New Zealand is now so high it makes little sense to insist on draconian border controls. MailOnline has more.

New Zealanders will finally be able to freely come and go from their island fortress in just a few days with the borders finally opening just a crack.

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced on Monday there will be no required quarantine for vaccinated New Zealanders returning home from March 3rd.

Kiwis stuck in Australia through the Covid pandemic have finally been able to get back home after being locked out for months.

Kiwis in Australia could already return to New Zealand without quarantine from Monday, February 28th, as part of NZ’s staggered opening scheme.

Travellers from the rest of the world were required to complete seven days of self-isolation, but that will be scrapped from Thursday for all countries of arrival.

New Zealand created a five step plan for reopening its borders, with Monday’s announcement marking an acceleration of step two.

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the change allowed Kiwis to immediately reconnect with their loved ones.

“Cabinet has agreed to lift all self-isolation requirements for vaccinated travellers entering New Zealand,” he said.

“That means that all Kiwis coming home and tourists entering the country will be able to step off the plane and immediately connect with family and friends and enjoy all New Zealand has to offer.”

Quarantine-free travel had initially been planned for March 13th but Ms Ardern said high cases in NZ meant the date could be brought forward.

“We’ve wanted to make sure that we’re carefully easing up the border so that we don’t over-burden our health system, but with so many cases in New Zealand now, it makes sense to look at those settings,” she said.

Worth reading in full.

Victory for Protestors in New Zealand as Jacinda Ardern Announces Plans to End Restrictions and Vaccine Mandates

New Zealand will lift COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions after the Omicron peak has passed, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said, as protesters occupying the parliament grounds again clashed with police. Reuters has the story.

Inspired by truckers’ demonstrations in Canada, thousands of protesters have blocked streets near the parliament in the capital Wellington for two weeks with trucks, cars and motorcycles, piling pressure on the Government to scrap vaccine mandates.

Ardern refused to set a hard date, but said there would be a narrowing of vaccine requirements after Omicron reaches a peak, which is expected in mid to late March.

“We all want to go back to the way life was. And we will, I suspect sooner than you think,” Ardern said at a weekly news conference.

“But when that happens, it will be because easing restrictions won’t compromise the lives of thousands of people – not because you demanded it,” she said, addressing protestors.

Leaders can, to save face, claim that it’s not because of the protests, but the truth is the protests have reminded governments that they cannot expect to ride roughshod over people’s liberties and bodily autonomy and face no backlash or disruption. Now let’s see if the protestors can keep the pressure on and bring the end-date forward and ensure the lifting is comprehensive.

Worth reading in full.

The New Zealand Government Needs to Engage With ‘Freedom Camp’ Protesters, Not Send in the Police

Inspired by the Canadian truckers, a number of New Zealand Freedom Convoys started out on February 5th from the tip of the North Island and the bottom of the South Island to converge on Wellington. Most of the South Island convoy is still camped at Picton (top of the South Island), unable to cross the Cook Strait by ferry. The North Island convoy arrived in Wellington early on February 8th and set up camp outside the New Zealand Parliament, blocking local streets with vehicles. While lacking central leadership and coming with a range of motives, all are calling for the lifting of mandated Covid health restrictions.

The anti-mandate protest camp outside Parliament poses a problem for Government authority. The Government’s response so far mirrors the effect (and often, it seems, motive) of the Covid public health orders in marginalising those who do not conform. The protestors have not been met by any politicians, as is the custom in New Zealand with protests against Parliament. They have been classified as an aggressive minority and have been accused of trespassing on Parliamentary grounds.

The Government’s dilemma is that to recognise any of the protesters’ demands will signify Government weakness, which – with declining polls – it can ill-afford. However, to take physical action to remove the protestors risks adverse publicity and the galvanising of more support. Yet to continue ignoring the protest – which appears to be there for the long haul – keeps it in the public eye, with the Government appearing reactive rather than proactive. There is no easy way out.

The Government has mishandled the situation so far. It should have realised that with every increase in restrictions and every mandate the protest movement would gather numbers, initially from those who are anti-lockdown, then anti-vaccine, then anti-mandate. With Government and opposition party apparatus all being so ‘on-message’ with health order controls, this blind spot is perhaps understandable, as few state workers would have raised concerns their bosses don’t want to hear, but as blind spots go it is a big one.

Freedom Convoys: French Police Use Tear Gas; New Zealand Deploys Barry Manilow; Canadian Truckers Clear Bridge But Protests Continue in Ottawa

Freedom Convoy protests continue in Canada, France and New Zealand – three countries where extreme responses to Covid have persisted for two years and where the unvaccinated are particularly targeted with restrictions.

In Canada, trucks have now cleared the Ambassador Bridge after blocking the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada for nearly six days. However, protests continue in Ottawa for the third weekend in a row. MailOnline has more.

Hundreds of people waving Canadian flags and holding anti-Trudeau signs braved the snow and cold temperatures Saturday as they filled the downtown area of the, walking between massive trucks that have been parked in place for weeks, paralysing the Canadian capital. 

In Windsor, as the vehicles moved out, a handful of people who remained near the entrance of the bridge gradually grew and as of 1pm had turned into a large crowd of people who refused to leave. Police in black uniforms with yellow safety vests formed a line between the bridge and the crowd and have been steadily pushing back the demonstrators, as some shouted “shame”, “freedom” and “you’re on the wrong side”. 

Windsor Police stated on Twitter around 11am that they could begin making arrests if protesters continued to block traffic. 

“Enforcement continuing, individuals who are located within the demonstration area are subject to arrest,” the Windsor police wrote. “People are advised to immediately vacate the area.”

While the trucks and vehicles had exited the bridge, both directions still appeared to be closed off to traffic as of Saturday afternoon.

Police descended on the scene around 8:30am Saturday, warning protesters to “act lawfully” after the Freedom Convoy truckers in Canada ignored two deadlines overnight.

The ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests, which began in Ottawa by Canadian truckers opposing a vaccinate-or-quarantine mandate for cross-border drivers, entered its 16th day on Saturday. The demonstrations are also an outpouring of fury toward Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

Protests spread to three border points earlier this week, including the Ambassador Bridge, North America’s busiest land border crossing where dozens of vehicles crowded the area since Monday, choking the supply chain for Detroit’s carmakers. 

UPDATE: It’s reported that protestors have returned and been seen blocking the bridge again on Saturday night.

In Paris, riot police tear-gassed diners at restaurants as protesters clashed during violent demonstrations against Covid restrictions and energy price rises. MailOnline has more.

“Taliban Treated Me Better,” Says Pregnant New Zealand Journalist Stranded in Afghanistan

A pregnant New Zealand journalist stranded in Afghanistan for months has found the Taliban more helpful than her own Government, which has failed to let her back in. MailOnline has the story.

Charlotte Bellis, a broadcast journalist, said she has repeatedly tried to return to New Zealand since she learned she was pregnant in September. 

She has submitted 59 documents to New Zealand officials in Afghanistan in an attempt to secure an emergency return home, but her bid was turned down and led her to turn to the Taliban, one of the world’s most oppressive regimes, for sympathy.

It’s a particularly cruel twist of fate for the woman who was revered worldwide for her fearless questioning of the jihadist group’s previous record on women’s rights.

To add insult to injury, Ms Bellis has warned that pregnancy can be a death sentence in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan because of the poor state of maternity care and lack of surgical capabilities.  

Speaking to 1News about her situation, Ms Bellis asked: “To the NZ Government, I ask what do you want me to do? I have done nothing wrong I got pregnant and I am a New Zealander.

“At what point did we get so bogged down in these rules we’ve come up with that we can’t see that she’s a Kiwi in need of help and she needs to come home?”

Although the spread of COVID-19 has been limited in New Zealand and just 52 deaths have been reported since the start of the pandemic, the nation still requires citizens to spend 10 days in isolation hotels run by the military.

The ‘zero Covid’ policy has repeatedly come under fire and the strict self-isolation restrictions have now caused a backlog of thousands of people desperate to return home.

Ms Bellis has become one of the most high-profile Kiwis to fall victim to New Zealand’s extreme border controls, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Government face further embarrassment over their own policies.

Writing in the New Zealand Herald on Saturday, Ms Bellis said it was “brutally ironic” that while she had once questioned the Taliban about their treatment of women, she was now asking the same questions of her own Government. 

“When the Taliban offers you – a pregnant, unmarried woman – safe haven, you know your situation is messed up,” she wrote. …

Last year, Bellis was working for Al Jazeera covering the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan when she gained international attention by questioning Taliban leaders about their treatment of women and girls.

In her column on Saturday, she said she returned to Qatar in September and discovered she was expecting a baby with her partner, freelance photographer Jim Huylebroek, a contributor to the New York Times.

She described the pregnancy as a “miracle” after earlier being told by doctors she could not have children. She is due to give birth to a girl in May.

Extramarital sex is illegal in Qatar and Ms Bellis said she realised she needed to leave. She repeatedly tried to get back to New Zealand in a lottery-style system for returning citizens but without success.

She said she resigned from Al Jazeera in November and the couple moved to Mr Huylebroek’s native Belgium, but she could not stay long because she was not a resident. She said the only other place the couple had visas to live was Afghanistan.

Ms Bellis said she spoke with senior Taliban contacts who told her she would be fine if she returned to Afghanistan.

“Just tell people you’re married and if it escalates, call us. Don’t worry,” she said they told her.

She said she sent 59 documents to New Zealand authorities in Afghanistan but they rejected her application for an emergency return.