New Zealand is dropping its Covid-19 elimination plan as delta persists

October 5, 2021: On Monday, New Zealand abandoned its elimination of coronavirus, easing some Covid-19 lockdown restrictions in its biggest city Auckland. It will instead look to live with the virus while controlling its spread.

The Pacific nation was from just a handful of countries to decrease Covid-19 cases to zero in the previous year and largely stayed virus-free until an outbreak of the high infections delta variant in mid-August frustrated efforts to stamp out transmission.

“With this outbreak and delta, the return to zero is complicated,” Ardern said in a news conference.

“This is a change in approach we want to makeover time. Our delta outbreak has accelerated this transition, and vaccines will support it,” she added.

On Monday, Health authorities reported 29 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total number in the current outbreak to 1,357. The majority of the cases are in Auckland, which has been in lockdown for almost 50 days.

Amid mounting pressure, Ardern has said her strategy was never to have zero cases but to stamp out the virus aggressively. She said strict lockdowns would end once 90% of the eligible population is vaccinated.

“It’s clear that a long period of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases. But it’s ok. Elimination was important as we didn’t have vaccinations, and now we do. So, starting to change the way we do things,” she said.

People in Auckland can leave their homes to connect with loved ones outdoors from Wednesday, with a limit of 10 people.

Early childhood education will return, and people can also move around for recreation, but retail, hospitality, and offices will remain shut.

Ardern said the remaining restrictions in Auckland would be eased in phases.