WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s prime minister says the government will start a pilot program of home-isolation for overseas travelers, ahead of what she expects to be increasing vaccination levels.
Currently New Zealanders have to quarantine in hotels for two weeks when they return home from abroad.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday a pilot program that will allow New Zealanders to quarantine at home will include 150 business travelers who arrive between Oct. 30 and Dec. 8. The program will involve monitoring and testing.
“The only reason that we are running this self-isolation pilot now is in preparation for a highly vaccinated population,” Ardern said.
“The intention is that in the first quarter of 2022 when more New Zealanders are vaccinated, it will be safer to run self-isolation at home,” she added.
Of the eligible population in New Zealand aged 12 and older, 43% had been fully vaccinated, Ardern said.
In Auckland, the nation’s most populous city which has been locked down since Aug. 17 after the highly-contagious delta variant leaked from hotel quarantine, 82% of the eligible population had at least a single dose of the double-shot Pfizer vaccine, she said.
New Zealand has taken an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the coronavirus and has been trying to completely eliminate the delta variant.
MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:
— U.S. has enough COVID-19 vaccines for boosters, kids’ shots
— Rowdy celebrations erupt in Norway as COVID restrictions end
— EXPLAINER: Who’s eligible for Pfizer boostershots in US?
See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
SYDNEY — Australia’s prime minister says he expects his country to open its international border well before the end of the year.
Australian governments have agreed to ease tight restrictions on overseas travel when 80% of the population aged 16 and older was fully vaccinated.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the first steps would allow Australians to leave and
fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents to return home.
“That will occur before the end of the year. It could happen well before that,” Morrison told American broadcaster CBS News.
More than 90% of the target age group in Australia’s most populous state and the worst impacted by the nation’s COVID-19 outbreak, New South Wales, will be vaccinated by the end of November, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said.
New South Wales reported 787 new locally acquired infections on Monday and 12 deaths in the latest 24-hour period.
Sydney’s lockdown would ease on Oct. 11 after 70% of the state’s population had received second doses of vaccine, Berejiklian said. With 85% of the target population already injected with at least a single vaccine dose, the 80% target is expected to be reached two weeks after the 70% benchmark.
On Dec. 1, unvaccinated people are expected to have their pandemic restrictions lifted.
State Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said she expected 92% of the target population would eventually be vaccinated.
New South Wales has the fastest vaccination rollout in Australia after the Australian Capital Territory.
SEATTLE — A Washington state trooper who helped develop the agency’s use of drones has died after a battle with COVID-19 contracted on duty.
The Washington State Patrol said Detective Eric Gunderson died Sunday surrounded by his family and friends. He was 38. Gunderson frequently traveled around the country to speak about the state patrol’s use of drones.
The patrol said he contracted COVID-19 on one of those trips. Gunderson helped investigate the 2017 Amtrak derailment in DuPont and his work is credited with reopening roads more quickly after crashes.
He is survived by a wife and two sons. Gunderson’s death is the first line of duty death for the agency since it marked its 100th anniversary a few weeks ago, Chief John Batiste said. “How I had hoped our second century of service would be more forgiving. But serving the public, as we do, has inherent dangers and this pandemic has been a foe to our agency and indeed our state and nation,” he said.
Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted his condolences to Gunderson’s family, friends and colleagues.
LOS ANGELES — Public health officials have identified more than 200 coronavirus outbreaks at police or fire agencies throughout Los Angeles County since the start of the pandemic, according to data obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
The 211 outbreaks, accounting for more than 2,500 cases between March 2020 and last month, represent 9% of total workplace outbreaks across the county, the newspaper reported Sunday. However, they have continued to occur regularly even as vaccination rates increased among police and fire personnel and the number of individual coronavirus cases per outbreak has fallen since last winter.
The data showed 38 outbreaks at public safety agencies were identified in April of this year — the most in any month since the start of the pandemic. A month later, 35 outbreaks — the second most — were recorded by the county Department of Public Health.
Overall, more than half of the outbreaks occurred at the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department, where some employees have filed lawsuits challenging a new rule requiring them to be vaccinated by next month. Thousands have filed notice that they intend to claim a medical or religious exemption from the mandate.
Vaccination rates for LAPD an LAFD employees generally lag behind the 68% of eligible county residents who have gotten their shots.
Critics have accused the police officers and city firefighters of ignoring public safety — and their sworn duties to uphold it — by refusing to get vaccinated.