New Zealand delayed the planned reopening of its international border because of the sweeping spread of Omicron around the world on Tuesday, as several other countries reimposed social distancing measures.
Many nations are on high alert just days ahead of Christmas and New Year celebrations, as the latest health crisis also takes a toll on financial markets, which fear the impact on the global economic recovery.
Omicron infections are multiplying rapidly across Europe, the United States and Asia, including in Japan where a single cluster at a military base has grown to at least 180 cases.
New Zealand COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said his country was delaying the start of a planned staggered reopening of its border until the end of February. The government had previously said quarantine-free travel would reopen by mid-January for New Zealand citizens and residents in Australia and by April for foreign tourists.