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WELLINGTON: New Zealanders celebrated Christmas on Saturday (December 25th) in warm midsummer with few restrictions in one of the few countries in the world that were largely unaffected by the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Ninety-five percent of adults in New Zealand have received at least one dose of the vaccine, making it one of the most vaccinated populations in the world. The only Omicron cases found in New Zealand have been safely trapped at the border.

As COVID-19 spread around the world in the past two years, New Zealand took advantage of its isolation. Border controls kept the worst of the virus at bay and by Christmas this year New Zealand had recorded 50 deaths out of a population of 5.5 million.

The Delta variant pierced New Zealand’s defenses in August and its largest city, Auckland, was named for 188 Days blocked. At its peak, the outbreak saw around 220 cases a day. Lately the daily average has been around 50.

But this success has its price. Chairs were empty at some tables this Christmas season as some New Zealanders living and working overseas were unable to return home due to restrictions in the country’s managed isolation and quarantine program.

The traditional dining tables of a northern winter – turkey and all and on – are common in New Zealand. But kiwis also celebrate antipodean, with barbecues on beaches lined with the native Pohutukawa tree, which only blooms at Christmas.

Some New Zealanders celebrated a white Christmas at New Zealand’s Scott Base in Antarctica. During the summer on the frozen continent, the sun never dips below the horizon and in 24 hours of daylight the temperature fluctuates around 0 degrees Celsius.

During the summer season, around 200 people pass the base – scientists, auxiliary personnel and personnel of the armed forces who Provide communication and other services. The numbers are lower this year due to the pandemic and all employees traveling to the continent had to isolate themselves and undergo COVID-19 tests before leaving.

“The addition of a two-week isolation period and multiple COVID-19 tests. Antarctica prep testing is a huge commitment for our folks heading south this year, ”said Sarah Williams, General Manager of Antarctica New Zealand. “But we want to make sure that we have done everything in our power to keep Antarctica free from COVID-19.”

Most Pacific island nations whose health systems may have been overwhelmed by COVID-19 outbreaks have largely managed to keep the virus at bay through tight border controls and high vaccination rates.

Fiji has an ongoing outbreak and has had nearly 700 deaths. About 92 percent of the adult population are now fully vaccinated, 97.7 percent have received at least one dose, and many in the deeply religious nation will celebrate Christmas at traditional church services and family celebrations.

In the remote Macuata province, residents of four villages received A special Christmas present: electricity was connected to their villages for the first time.

Australia celebrated Christmas amid a spate of COVID-19 cases worse than any stage of the pandemic, which forced states to reintroduce mask mandates and other preventive measures . The Omicron strain is widespread in some states and is estimated to account for more than 70 percent of all new cases in Queensland.

“This pandemic continues to hit us,” said Morrison. “The Omicron variant is just the latest challenge that we have faced. But together, always together and only together, we will continue to assert ourselves. ”

The summer heat could have prevented Christmas parties in the open in some places. The temperature in Perth, Western Australia, was slated to hit 42 degrees Celsius on Saturday, making it the hottest Christmas on records more than a century ago.

On Christmas Eve, a learner driver set off in the Northern Territory with a truck of Christmas ham worth of over $ 10,000 of it that was empty when it was found.

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Ref: https://www.channelnewsasia.com