New Zealand said on Tuesday that it was pushing back a phased opening of its borders to the end of February, in another indication of how countries throughout the Asia Pacific region are scrambling to respond to the threat of the Omicron variant.

New Zealand also postponed its plans to allow its citizens living in Australia to return without quarantining starting on Jan. 17. Now the program will not start until the end of February.

New Zealand has detected 22 cases of Omicron in international arrivals, but no community cases of the variant have been reported. In the event of an outbreak, the government intends to replace lockdowns of the past with more targeted measures, Chris Hipkins, the Covid-19 response minister, said.

“It’s not our intention to move to lockdowns unless that is absolutely necessary in the event of a widespread outbreak, where our health system becomes under considerable strain and the overall health risk becomes too much to bear,” he said.

closed its borders to all nonresident foreigners last month, an outbreak of 180 cases at an American military base has also raised fears of a resurgence. The virus was first detected at the base on the southern island of Okinawa on Friday, the

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