Starting Friday, people who arrive in New Zealand will need to be quarantined in an approved facility for at least two weeks.
The change means they can no longer self-isolate at home, or anywhere else they choose.
It’s a rule that will only affect New Zealanders — foreigners have not been allowed to enter the country for weeks.
The country’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the restriction on Thursday, even as new coronavirus cases fell for the fourth consecutive day.
But many people will welcome the stricter rules — and some will be asking why she didn’t do it sooner.
Statistics show that 41% of New Zealand’s 1,239 confirmed and probable cases are connected with overseas travel. That’s prompted some to question why the country hasn’t done more at the border to stop the virus in its tracks.
The country’s main opposition New Zealand National Party launched a petition to introduce mandatory quarantining at the border.
Television journalist Patrick Gower called on the government to “please, please, please fully quarantine the New Zealand border.”
So why didn’t the government act sooner? In her speech Thursday, Ardern said there had always been urgency around the issue, “but simply put, we could not have done it from the beginning.”
The reason was simple: space. Ardern said nearly 40,000 New Zealanders have returned home since March 20, when the border was closed to foreign nationals. According to Ardern, that’s more than all of the hotel rooms across the country that the government could have properly housed people in.
The government is now able to do it because arrivals have slowed to a trickle.