New Zealand acknowledged on Sunday (22) that its “zero covid” strategy may no longer be viable. With only 20% of the population fully vaccinated, the New Zealand government understands that the advance of the delta variant puts its “health system in trouble”.
The statement was made by the minister in charge of the response to Covid-19, Chris Hipkins. He said that as the delta variant is more transmissible, the quest for complete elimination of the virus becomes more difficult.
“The scale of the risk of contagion and the speed with which the virus spreads is something that, even with the best preparation in the world, has left our healthcare system in trouble,” said the TVNZ network.
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New Zealand’s strategy against Covid-19, which resulted in just 26 deaths in the population of five million people, focuses on eliminating the virus from the community through strict border controls and total containment when cases are detected.
With the advance of the delta variant, the country plans to change its strategy. The delta “is like nothing we’ve faced before in this pandemic,” Hipkins admitted.
“Everything changes, it means that all our existing preparation is less adequate and big doubts arise about our long-term plans,” added the minister.
Hipkins reported that New Zealand has registered 21 new cases in an outbreak of contagion that emerged on Tuesday (17) in Auckland. The country, which now has 71 active cases, had been without local infections for six months.
Due to the new cases, the government determined a national confinement.
Slow pace of vaccination
The wave of new cases in New Zealand has drawn attention to the country’s vaccination campaign, where only one in five people is fully immunized. New Zealand government opposition criticized the slow pace of the campaign.
“The government’s complacency and inability to secure and deliver the vaccine has left us exposed, completely vulnerable to the delta variant,” complained Chris Bishop, spokesman for the opposition National Party.
The national confinement period, established on Aug. 17, is scheduled to end on Tuesday (24), but the government is considering maintaining restrictions in Auckland for a longer period.