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New Zealand bans entry of travellers from India amid Covid surge

WELLINGTON, New Zealand: Entry for all travellers from India to New Zealand has suspended 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, with the number of infections in the past 24 hours reaching an all-time high of 126,789 cases on Thursday.

The new cases reported by India’s health ministry overtook Wednesday’s 115,736 infections with dozens of cities and towns imposing night curfews to try to contain infections.

Deaths from Covid-19 rose by 685 in the past 24 hours, the highest since November, raising India’s toll to 166,862 dead since the pandemic began.

New Zealand’s suspension of entry for travellers from India will start from 4:00 pm local time (04:00 GMT) 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 emphasise 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 has not been the case with India, Ardern said.

“We have looked into whether or not we have issues with [the] 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 isolation facility.

India has hit yet another new peak with 115,736 coronavirus cases reported in the past 24 hours. New Delhi, Mumbai and dozens of other cities are imposing curfews to try to slow the soaring infections.

The latest rise reported on Wednesday overtook Sunday’s record of 103,844 infections. Fatalities rose by 630 in the past 24 hours, the highest since November, raising the total death toll in the country to 166,177 since the pandemic began.

Experts say the surge is blamed in part on growing disregard for social distancing and mask-wearing in public spaces. The latest surge in infections is worse than last year’s peak of more than 97,000 a day in mid-September.

India now has a seven-day rolling average of more than 78,000 cases per day and has reported 12.8 million virus cases since the pandemic began, the highest after the United States and Brazil.