New Zealand has abandoned its policy of COVID-elimination and will instead shift its focus towards a “contain and control” approach after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged more than a month of restrictions had not got the country to zero cases.
Sky News reports that NZrecorded a further 29 community infections on Monday (4 October), taking the number of cases in the current Delta outbreak to 1,357.
The first case in the latest outbreak emerged in Auckland in mid August, prompting Ardern to order a Level 4 nationwide lockdown while declaring: “We want to be short and sharp, not light and long”.
“At the beginning of this outbreak, we said we were adopting an approach of elimination while we vaccinate. That was the right choice, and the only choice,” she said on Monday. “At that time, only 42% of Aucklanders had one dose and 25% were fully vaccinated. In the seven weeks since, those numbers are now 84% and 52%, effectively doubled.”
She said while they had managed to contain the current outbreak, it was clear the country would struggle to get back down to zero community infections. “With this outbreak, and with Delta, the return to zero is incredibly difficult.
“And our restrictions alone are not enough to achieve it quickly. In fact, for this outbreak it has become clear that long periods of heavy restrictions has not get us to zero cases. But that is ok. Elimination was important because we didn't have vaccines.”
Ardern said now the country was seeing rising vaccination rates, it was time to shift its position on managing COVID-19, adds Sky News.
“We have more options. But we cannot rush. We need to continue to contain and control the virus as much as possible while making our transition from … heavy restrictions, to a place where we use vaccines and every day public health measures.”
Auckland would remain on Alert Level 3 from Tuesday, with changes to some restrictions.
“People will be able to connect with loved ones outdoors with no more than two households at a time, up to a maximum of 10 people; early childhood education will return for all; and people can move around Auckland for recreation like beach visits and hunting,” she said.
“At step two retail will open their doors, with the usual measures of wearing facemasks and physical distancing; public facilities like pools and zoos will open; and the number of people who can meet outdoors will increase to 25.
“Step three will bring back those higher risk settings. Hospitality will open – seated, separated and with a limit of 50; close contact businesses like hairdressers will also open with mask use and physical distancing; and gatherings will also then extend to 50.”
New Zealand reached a major milestone in its vaccine rollout on Monday, with more than 2 million residents now fully vaccinated.
The country has also announced non-citizens arriving from November 1 will have to be fully vaccinated.
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