PRIME Minister Jacinda Ardern said that New Zealand would continue to strive to live with COVID-19, even though the new variant of Omicron poses a new health threat to the world.

So far, no cases of the Omicron variant have been detected in New Zealand but developments in the global situation show why a cautious approach is needed at the border, Ardern said.

“Omicron is a reminder of the risks that still exist at our borders,” Ardern said at a news conference on Monday (11/29).

New Zealand, which has some of the strictest border controls in the world, plans to close its borders to most international travelers over the next five months.

The country also introduced new border measures for travelers from nine southern African countries over the weekend and announced that only nationals of these countries can travel to New Zealand and must stay in state quarantine facilities for 14 days.

Ardern said more evidence needs to be gathered to determine the impact of the Omicron variant. It may have an impact on our vaccine, but it may not. It might be more severe or it might be lighter than the Delta variant… we don’t know.

Health director general Ashley Bloomfield said authorities were looking at whether more rules needed to be put in place at the border to keep Omicron away.

“It’s really just to prevent it (Omicron) while we learn more about it,” Bloomfield told reporters at a news conference.

New Zealand switched to a new system starting Friday (12/3) by classifying areas in red, orange or green–depending on their level of exposure to COVID-19 and vaccination rates.

Auckland, the country’s epicenter of the Delta outbreak, will be classified in red, requiring the wearing of masks and limiting gatherings in public places. New Zealand has so far recorded around 11,000 cases and 43 deaths related to COVID-19. [antaranews/photo special]