New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called off her wedding as the country imposes new restrictions to try to curb the spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant. “My wedding won’t be going ahead but I just join many other New Zealanders who have had an experience like that as a result of the pandemic,” Ardern said. “And to anyone caught up in that scenario, I am so sorry.” Asked by reporters how she felt about calling off the wedding, she shrugged it off: “Such is life.”
In discussing the impact of the new restrictions on her wedding to Clarke Gayford, Ardern said some families had to endure far worse scenarios during the pandemic. “I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill,” she said. “That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience.”
Ardern said her wedding would be called off as she unveiled fresh COVID-19 restrictions for the country after nine cases of the omicron variant were discovered in a single family that flew to Auckland to attend a wedding. The so-called red setting means stricter restrictions such as mandatory face masks and limits on social gatherings. Ardern took pains to emphasize that the “red setting” was not the same as a lockdown because businesses can stay open and people can still visit family and friends around the country.
New Zealand is one of the few countries around the world that have managed to avoid any big omicron outbreaks. The country’s borders have been largely closed to foreigners since March 2020 and a planned gradual reopening was postponed amid fears that it could soon see an omicron surge as happened in Australia. Ardern said that while the country would try to slow the spread of omicron, she did warn an outbreak was all but inevitable. “Omicron is now in more than 80 countries around the world. By delaying its arrival here, we’ve had the time to kick off boosters, vaccinations for children and [to] prepare,” she said. Around 94 percent of New Zealand’s population over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 56 percent of those eligible have received booster shots.