After six months without a single Covid infection, New Zealand faces a new challenge as Delta outbreak grows.
New Zealand has addmited that its “Covid zero” elimination strategy may no longer be viable today as an outbreak of the virulent Delta variant continued to spread.
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said the variant “changes the game considerably” and makes existing protections “look less adequate”.
Speaking to the media on Sunday, Mr Hipkins said eliminating the virus inside New Zealand was still the government’s aim.
“The reality though is that a virus that can be infectious within 24 hours of someone getting it – that changes the game considerably,” he told the televised Q+A political talk show on Sunday.
“It does mean that all of our existing protections… start to look less adequate and less robust,” he said, adding that it raises “some pretty big questions about what the long-term future of our plans are”.
“At some point we will have to start to be more open in the future.”
“(Delta’s) like nothing we’ve dealt with before in this pandemic,” he said.
“It does change everything, it means that all of our existing preparations begin to look less adequate and raises some pretty big questions about the future of our long-term plans.”
New Zealand was widely praised for its Covid-19 response. It reported 26 deaths were since the pandemic outbreak in a population of five million.
The country has relied on strict border controls backed by hard lockdowns when any cases do slip through.
It has adopted rapid and strict lockdown measures in 2020 which effectively stopped the spread of the virus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly referred to New Zealand as “our team of five million”.
But, Delta may force a rethink in the country’s pandemic strategy. New Zealand has one of the lowest number of fully vaccinated people among the OECD.