New Zealand admits it can no longer get rid of the Corona virus
Wellington New Zealand’s government on Monday acknowledged what most other countries have done for a long time: they can no longer completely rid themselves of the coronavirus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a cautious plan to ease lockdown restrictions in Auckland, despite the outbreak there that is still maturing.
Since the start of the pandemic, New Zealand has taken an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the virus with strict lockdowns and aggressive contact tracing.
Until recently, this elimination strategy has been remarkably successful in the nation of 5 million, which has reported just 27 deaths from the virus.
While other countries faced a spike in deaths and disruption to life, New Zealanders have returned to workplaces, schoolyards and sports stadiums safe from any community spread.
But that all changed when the more contagious Delta variant somehow escaped the quarantine facility in August after it was brought into the country from a traveler returning from Australia.
Although New Zealand entered the strictest form of lockdown after only one local case was discovered, it was ultimately not enough to crush the outbreak completely.
One factor could be that the disease has spread among some groups that are usually more wary of the authorities, including gang members and homeless people living in transitional housing.
The outbreak has grown to more than 1,300 cases, with 29 more cases detected on Monday. A few cases have been found outside Auckland.
Ardern said seven weeks of lockdown restrictions in Auckland have helped bring the outbreak under control.
“For this outbreak, obviously, long periods of severe restrictions have not got us zero cases. But that’s okay. Elimination was important because we didn’t have vaccines. Now we do, so we can start to change the way we do things,” Ardern said. .
New Zealand has started its vaccination campaign slowly compared to most other developed countries. Rates rose in August after the outbreak began but have fallen again dramatically since then.
About 65% of New Zealanders have had at least one dose and 40% have been fully vaccinated. Among people 12 years of age or older, about 79% received at least one stroke.
Under Ardern’s plan starting Tuesday, Aucklanders will be able to meet their loved ones outdoors from another home, early childhood centers will reopen and people will be able to go to the beach.
No dates have been set for the gradual reopening of retail stores and beyond from bars and restaurants.
Ardern said the elimination strategy has served the country incredibly well, but the government has always intended to eventually move to vaccine protection, a change that the “game changer” delta formula has accelerated.
The government’s abolition approach has been widely supported by New Zealanders but has faced growing criticism. Over the weekend, hundreds of people marched to protest the lockdown.
Opposition MP Chris Bishop said the government had no clear strategy for dealing with the outbreak other than total surrender.
But Ardern said most measures will remain in place to control the outbreak, including extensive contact tracing and isolation of those infected.
“There is good reason to be optimistic about the future,” Ardern said. “But we can’t rush.”
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