Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday that New Zealand would begin to shift away from a zero-Covid approach and toward living with the virus, making it the latest country to abandon its eradication efforts in the face of the extremely dangerous Delta strain.
According to statistics from Johns Hopkins University, New Zealand has recorded just 4,409 Covid-19 infections and 27 fatalities after sealing its borders early in the epidemic, one of the lowest case counts of any country.
However, an epidemic in August, caused by the Delta strain, put Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, under lockdown for several days. Despite more than six weeks of limitations on mobility in the city, New Zealand confirmed 24 new cases in the community on Tuesday, the bulk of which were discovered in Auckland.
The infection, Ardern conceded on Monday, was “a tentacle that has been extremely difficult to shake.”
“We’ve substantially controlled the epidemic to this point,” she said, “but as you can see with this outbreak and with Delta, getting back to zero is very difficult.” She said that extended periods of severe restrictions have failed to significantly decrease infections.
While Ardern stated that New Zealand had always planned to live with the virus, the Delta version has “expedited” the transition. New Zealand’s premier didn’t indicate when the country’s shift from a zero-Covid plan would begin, but she did remark the country was “not there yet.”
“We need more fully vaccinated individuals in more suburbs and across more age groups,” Ardern added.
According to New Zealand’s Health Ministry, at least 49 percent of the country has been completely vaccinated, with 79 percent having received their first dosage.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Ardern announced that from next month, New Zealanders will need vaccination certificates to attend public events like as music festivals and other big gatherings.
“If you’re planning on attending a summer event, this is a warning or a heads up,” she added.
New Zealand joins a number of other Asia-Pacific countries that have lately revealed preparations to live with the virus.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison indicated in August that after the country met its national immunization objectives of up to 80%, limitations will be eased.
He also outlined a timeline last week that may see Australia’s borders reopen to fully vaccinated citizens and permanent residents by November. Non-citizen international immigration are not likely to continue until next year.
Ardern told reporters on Monday that executing New Zealand’s zero-Covid approach over the last 18 months had saved lives, and she had no regrets.
“We didn’t have vaccinations, so elimination was crucial. Now we have it, “she stated