New Zealand Faces Convoy Protesters Blocking Streets Near Parliament

Hundreds of protesters protesting vaccination and mask requirements traveled in convoy to New Zealand’s capital on Tuesday, forming a ring around Parliament as MPs returned from their summer recess.

The predominantly unmasked protestors had traveled from all across the nation, and their vehicles congested downtown Wellington streets for hours as they exited their vehicles to gather and speak on Parliament’s forecourt.

While delivering a speech to MPs outlining her goals for the year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern chose not to meet with them.

Among the demonstrators’ objections is New Zealand’s mandate that certain professionals, such as teachers, physicians, nurses, police, and military people, be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Many demonstrators also reject mask laws, such as those in supermarkets and in school classrooms for children above the age of eight, and advocate the principle of more “liberty.”

After closing its borders and implementing severe lockdowns, New Zealand was spared the brunt of the epidemic, reducing the virus’s spread. Only 53 people have died as a result of the virus in the country’s 5 million-strong population.

However, some people have grown tired of the constraints. As part of the reopening of the country’s borders, Ardern said last week that the country’s quarantine regulations for arriving passengers will be phased off.

Ardern has also guaranteed that she will not enforce any additional lockdowns now that roughly 77 percent of New Zealanders have been completely vaccinated.

As the omicron variant pandemic spreads, health officials have been reporting roughly 200 new viral cases every day. A total of fourteen persons have been admitted to hospitals as a result of the infection.

According to police, no arrests had been made as of Tuesday afternoon, and protest organizers had requested protestors to relocate their automobiles and trucks by 5 p.m., ahead of the evening rush hour.

Officials from Wellington City Council had previously stated on social media that they were hesitant to issue tickets or force motorists to move, stating, “We must consider the safety of our personnel and do not want to put them in harm’s way.”

Ardern said in her address that her government’s guiding principles throughout the epidemic had been to safeguard lives and livelihoods, and that it had done so with a robust health response that helped soften the economic hit, resulting in record-low unemployment and solid GDP growth.

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