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New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cancels own wedding under new COVID restrictions

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a post Cabinet press conference at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a post Cabinet press conference at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021.   -   Copyright  Mark Mitchell/Pool Photo via AP   -  

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was forced to call off her own wedding as she tightened Covid-19 restrictions on Sunday in the face of an outbreak of the Omicron variant.

"My wedding will not be going ahead," she confirmed after detailing new restrictions; including a limit of 100 fully vaccinated people at events.

"I just joined many other New Zealanders who have had an experience like that as a result of the pandemic and to anyone who is caught up in that scenario I am so sorry."

The emergence of nine cases of Omicron in a family who travelled between cities to attend a wedding, and the infection of a flight attendant on one aircraft they flew on, forced New Zealand to impose its "red setting" restrictions from midnight on Sunday.

The family attended a wedding and other events while in Auckland, with estimates suggesting they came into contact with “well over 100 people at these events,” Ardern said.

The new restrictions, which include tightening rules on wearing masks, come into force on Monday and are set to remain in place until at least the end of February.

The prime minister and long-time partner Clarke Gayford had never announced their wedding date, but it was believed to be scheduled for some time in the next few weeks.

"Such is life," Ardern said when asked how she felt about setting the rules which forced her to postpone her own wedding plans.

"I'm no different to 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. That will far outstrip any sadness I experience."

New Zealand had been among the few remaining countries to have avoided any outbreaks of the omicron variant, but Ardern acknowledged last week that an outbreak was inevitable given the high transmissibility of the variant.

The country has managed to contain the spread of the delta variant, with an average of about 20 new cases each day. But it has seen an increasing number of people arriving into the country and going into mandatory quarantine who are infected with omicron.

That has put strain on the quarantine system and prompted the government to limit access for returning citizens while it decides what to do about reopening its borders, angering many people who want to return.

New Zealand has detected 15,104 Covid-19 cases and recorded 52 deaths since the pandemic began.

About 93% of New Zealanders aged 12 and over are fully vaccinated and 52% have had a booster shot. The country has just begun vaccinating children aged between 5 and 11.