New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that the country would no longer be able to entirely rid itself of COVID-19.
As reported by The Associated Press, “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a cautious plan to ease lockdown restrictions in Auckland, despite an outbreak there that continues to simmer. Since early in the pandemic, New Zealand had pursued an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the virus through strict lockdowns and aggressive contact tracing.”
“With this outbreak, and Delta, the return to zero is incredibly difficult,” Ardern reportedly told a press conference.
“This is a change in approach we were always going to make over time. Our Delta outbreak has accelerated this transition. Vaccines will support it,” she said.
“It’s clear that a long period of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases,” she said. “But it’s OK … elimination was important because we didn’t have vaccinations. Now we do, so we can begin to change the way we do things.”
Ardern discussed how the Auckland lockdown will be cut down in steps.
As reported by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “Auckland residents will be able to leave their homes to connect with loved ones outdoors from Wednesday, with a limit of 10 people. Early childhood education will also return, but retail and hospitality outlets and offices will still remain shut.”
The Associated Press reported:
Aucklanders will be able to meet outdoors with loved ones from one other household, early childhood centers will reopen and people will be able to go to the beach.
The dates for a phased reopening of retail stores and later bars and restaurants have yet to be decided.
Ardern stated that most efforts would stay in place in order to keep control over the outbreak, including extensive contact tracing and isolation for people who get the virus.
“There’s good cause for us to feel optimistic about the future,” Ardern said. “But we cannot rush.”
The New York Times reported:
To move away from lockdowns altogether, New Zealand will have to achieve widespread vaccination, Ms. Ardern said. Some 79 percent of people 12 and older have received at least one dose, and 48 percent have received two doses, according to data from the Ministry of Health. Full immunization of the population — New Zealand’s stated aim — could take months as the country struggles to persuade the final 20 percent to receive a first dose of a vaccine.
Over the weekend, protesters rallied in the streets speaking out against the lockdown in Auckland that had lasted almost two months.
As reported by Reuters on Saturday:
Around 1,000 people rallied in the city, organised by Destiny Church, a Pentecostal fundamentalist Christian movement, demanded “freedom from lockdown”, New Zealand media reported. There were no immediate reports of violence or arrests.
Rallies were scheduled to also take place in the capital Wellington and Christchurch.
As reported by The Daily Wire in August, Ardern “authorized a nationwide lockdown after a single case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Auckland, telling citizens to shun neighbors and keep to their ‘bubble.’”
“A 58-year-old man tested positive for the virus, triggering week-long lockdowns in Auckland, where he resides, and Coromandel, a coastal town he had recently visited. The infection also triggered a three-day lockdown for the entire nation,” it added.
At the time, Ardern said, “We ask people to stay two meters away from anyone you pass, stay local, and do not congregate,” adding, “Don’t talk to your neighbors. Please keep to your bubble.”
“Last April, during a four-week lockdown, Ardern said the Easter Bunny was allowed in the nation but discouraged Easter egg hunts for children, instead encouraging them to draw eggs on paper,” The Daily Wire added.