Wellington: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted that the country's widely praised "Covid Zero" strategy had failed to check an intense outbreak in Auckland. On Monday, she told reporters that a new approach was needed, Agence France-Presse reported.
Ardern said that the highly transmissible Delta variant had proved a "game-changer" that could not be eliminated. Even the long term restrictions the administration imposed had not helped in reaching Zero.
She said that the elimination strategy would not be withdrawn immediately, but restrictions in Auckland would be eased slightly, though the rate of infections hasn't come down.
But she also said that the goal of eliminating the virus from the country was possible since vaccination rates had increased dramatically. Earlier, elimination was vital since they didn't have access to vaccines, but they do now. Therefore they can begin to change the way they do things, Arden told reporters.
For now, Auckland would remain in lockdown, and the government will conduct weekly reviews to time the relaxations on restrictions. Residents could meet outdoors in groups of up to 10 from Wednesday. Reopening of schools and shops will be considered in the coming weeks.
The country was largely protected from the Covid-19 after the hardline elimination policy was rolled out with tight restrictions at international borders. Residents were enjoying a near-normal domestic life in the country. But an outbreak in August set the government to impose a seven-week lockdown at Auckland, its main population centre, as it has failed to restrict infection rates.
The rest of the country was released from the shutdown in early September.
Before the Auckland outbreak, the country's elimination strategy against the pandemic was widely lauded by many, including the World Health Organisation. New Zealand had registered only 27 deaths out of a population of five million.