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New Zealand has abandoned its zero-COVID-19 ambitions. Here’s why

New Zealand has gone into lockdown and decided to end its zero-COVID-19 policy

SHARE New Zealand has abandoned its zero-COVID-19 ambitions. Here’s why
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks in Wellington, New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a post-Cabinet press conference at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021. The country will end its long-standing “zero-COVID” policy after failing to stop a recent outbreak, according to The New York Times.

Mark Mitchell, pool via Associated Press

New Zealand — one of the most successful countries for limiting the spread of the coronavirus — will end its long-standing “zero-COVID” policy after failing to stop a recent outbreak, according to The New York Times.

  • Since the beginning of the pandemic, New Zealand has had a coronavirus containment strategy centered around the idea of “zero-COVID” — meaning there would be no COVID-19 cases within the country. To do so, New Zealand closed borders and enforced massive lockdowns whenever a case would pop up.

However, New Zealand decided to end the policy on Monday. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday that the strategy will change since the country is in its seventh week of lockdown, created by an outbreak of the delta variant of the coronavirus, per The New York Times.

  • “We’re transitioning from our current strategy into a new way of doing things,” Ardern said Monday. “With delta, the return to zero is incredibly difficult, and our restrictions alone are not enough to achieve that quickly. In fact, for this outbreak, it’s clear that long periods of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases.”
  • “What we have called a long tail feels more like a tentacle that has been incredibly hard to shake,” she said.

New Zealand saw such a massive outbreak in part because the country’s vaccination rate is so low (mostly because there weren’t a lot of cases so people felt less incentivized to get vaccinated, per Fox News). Per Reuters, at least 67.7% of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccination and 41% have been fully vaccinated.