Oct 4, 2021 - World

New Zealand phasing out COVID-19 elimination strategy

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a press conference with director-general of health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield at Parliament on Oct. 4. Photo: Mark Mitchell/Pool/Getty Images

New Zealand's government on Monday announced that it will transition away from its focus on completely eliminating COVID-19 and instead implement an approach that also takes into account vaccination rates, AP reports.

Why it matters: The announcement signals a change from New Zealand's prevailing policies throughout the pandemic — which have been dominated by a zero-tolerance approach to the virus through strict lockdowns and contact tracing.

  • New Zealand entered the highest lockdown level in August after detecting its first community case in nearly six months.
  • The stringent lockdown measures were not sufficient to crush the outbreak entirely, AP reports.

Details: The new plan — effective Tuesday — will allow residents of Auckland, which has been on lockdown, to meet outdoors with individuals from one other household, and early childhood centers to reopen.

  • The dates for a phased reopening of retail stores and eventually bars and restaurants have not yet been determined.

What she's saying: "With this outbreak and Delta the return to zero is incredibly difficult," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during a news conference.

  • "But that is OK. Elimination was important because we didn’t have vaccines. Now we do, so we can begin to change the way we do things," she added.
  • "Vaccines will mean that in the future we can do things differently … but even then, our strategy remains: that while cases will continue, we want to control the virus, stamp out cases, and prevent hospitalizations, but with vaccines we have more options on how we do that," Ardern said, per the Guardian.

Go deeper: New Zealand to gradually reopen to the world next year

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that residents of Auckland will be allowed to meet outdoors with individuals from another household.

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