Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed concerns about a return to zero coronavirus cases becoming unattainable, with the spread of the Delta variant leading to a change of policy.
Since the worldwide outbreak of Covid-19, New Zealand has drawn international attention for their successful policies on preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
After a peak in cases in April 2020, with the highest number of cases in one day reaching over eighty, New Zealand had taken strict measures to stop the outbreak.
These restrictions proved to be successful as cases decreased, and New Zealand eventually reached zero cases. This achievement was maintained for months until a change in circumstances with the highly contagious Delta variant outbreak.
On 17 August 2021, New Zealand went into lockdown after a Delta case was detected. This was the first case in the country after six months of zero cases.
Despite the immediate lockdown, the country could not get ahead of a new coronavirus spread and cases peaked again in late August 2021.
At a news conference today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed that the lockdown since August 17 was the right choice for New Zealand despite not eliminating coronavirus cases.
“For this outbreak, it’s clear that long periods of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases,” said Ardern, heading towards a change in New Zealand’s strict coronavirus elimination policies.
"This is a change in approach we were always going to make over time. Our Delta outbreak has accelerated this transition. Vaccines will support it," she added.
The seven weeks of lockdown ever since the first Delta case was reported will continue until Wednesday, when restrictions will be loosened. After that, the plan is to come out of lockdown gradually.
So far, New Zealand has had a total of 4025 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 287 active cases and 27 dead.
Strict regulations are planned to cease when the eligible population reaches a ninety percent rate of vaccinations. Currently, only forty eight percent of New Zealand’s eligible population is fully vaccinated. In contrast to most developed countries, New Zealand’s vaccination efforts have fallen behind.
New Zealand has abandoned its policy of pursuing zero cases of Covid-19 and moved towards a new policy focused on attaining the target of 100 percent vaccinations and deploying new public health measures, considering that the delta variant is highly contagious. Instead of eliminating the virus, the country will now focus on controlling it.