WELLINGTON, Feb 21 (Reuters) – New Zealand will lift COVID-19 vaccine mandates and social distancing measures after the Omicron peak has passed, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday, as protesters occupying the parliament grounds again clashed with police.
Inspired by truckers’ demonstrations in Canada, thousands of protesters have blocked streets near the parliament in the capital Wellington for two weeks with trucks, cars and motorcycles, piling pressure on the government to scrap vaccine mandates.
Ardern refused to set a hard date, but said there would be a narrowing of vaccine requirements after Omicron reaches a peak, which is expected in mid to late March.
“We all want to go back to the way life was. And we will, I suspect sooner than you think,” Ardern said at a weekly news conference.
“But when that happens, it will be because easing restrictions won’t compromise the lives of thousands of people – not because you demanded it,” she said, addressing protestors.
On Monday, eight people were arrested for disorderly behaviour and obstruction, with human waste thrown over some police officers.