New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern remained in self-isolation on Sunday as the country registered 103 new COVID-19 infections and the strict border controls were highlighted by a pregnant journalist who said she was trapped in Afghanistan.
Ardern, in self-isolation until Tuesday, took a coronavirus test on Sunday after being exposed to an infected person. The results were expected later on Sunday or Monday, her office said.
Journalist Charlotte Bellis said in a New Zealand Herald article she was unable to return from Afghanistan, where she reported, after the Ardern government rejected her application for an entry waiver.
“If the Taliban offers you – a pregnant, unmarried woman – a safe haven, you know your situation is messed up,” Bellis wrote, saying she was trapped with her Belgian partner.
Her application was rejected because it was for travel beyond the 14 days allowed after the application, immigration and health officials told the newspaper. They said the matter needed further explanation and Bellis had been “invited” to reapply within 14 days.
Chris Bunny, head of New Zealand’s Managed Isolation and Quarantine, told the newspaper that the department has not received confirmation that Bellis intended to move her flights forward.
She said she chose travel dates outside the window due to a scarcity of flights from Kabul and to “give us time to appeal if we were rejected”.
The quarantine agency did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
New Zealand’s borders have been closed to foreigners since March 2020. The government has reversed plans for a phased reopening from mid-January to late February over concerns over a possible Omicron outbreak, such as in neighboring Australia.
New Zealand, a country of five million people, has had 15,910 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 52 deaths.
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