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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during a press conference with director general of health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield at Parliament on October 4, 2021. 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.

Go deeper

Oct 14, 2021 - Health

New COVID cases down, but the West is at risk

Expand chart
Data: N.Y. Times; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

For the first time since early August, the U.S. is averaging fewer than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases per day.

Why it matters: This U.S. has blown opportunities like this before, but the prospect of controlling the virus and being able to safely put pandemic life behind us is once again within reach.

53 mins ago - Health

White House unveils plan to "quickly" vaccinate kids ages 5-11

Charles Muro, 13, is inoculated at Hartford Healthcare's mass vaccination center at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

The White House on Wednesday released its plan to vaccinate children between the ages of five and 11, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration of the first COVID-19 shot for that age group.

The big picture: The White House said it has secured enough vaccine supply to equip more than 25,000 pediatric and primary care offices, hundreds of school and community health clinics, as well as tens of thousands of pharmacies, to administer the shots.

1 hour ago - Sports

Where it stands: Weed policies by U.S. sports league

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With public support for marijuana legalization nearing unanimity, and more athletes using cannabis to treat pain, the four major U.S. sports leagues continue to reduce restrictions and punishments.

Driving the news: NBA players won't be subject to random marijuana testing this season, an extension of an agreement between the league and its players' union that began ahead of the 2020 Orlando restart.