New Zealand ditches Zero Covid strategy

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, unveiled a major shift in the country’s Covid strategy on Monday when she announced the country would no longer pursue a  “Zero Covid” strategy – and will instead look to control the virus. This coincides with the Country vaccinating 68 per cent of its population with at least one jab.

New Zealand prime minister receives a Covid vaccine
New Zealand prime minister receives a Covid vaccine CREDIT: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

While much of the world has battled successive waves of the virus, necessitating domestic lockdowns, New Zealand all but closed itself off from the world while living life as normal internally. As a result, it has recorded only 27 deaths since the pandemic started, which equates to just over five deaths per million people, compared to the United States’ 2,105 and the UK’s 2,012. The strategy has had fierce critics – both domestically and internationally – but Dr Helena Legido-Quigley, a public health researcher at the University of Singapore and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, believes history will judge countries such as New Zealand and zero Covid counterparts Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong more kindly. “In two or three years when we look back at countries that pursued zero Covid we will see that they did well. When you look at the number of deaths in a country like Singapore compared to Europe, the difference is shocking.” However, the delta variant managed to pierce New Zealand’s defences and since August cases have been increasing – albeit at low levels. On Monday New Zealand recorded 29 new Covid cases, bringing the number to 1,357 since August.

The delta variant managed to pierce New Zealand’s defences and since August cases have been increasing – albeit at low levels. On Monday New Zealand recorded 29 new Covid cases, bringing the number to 1,357 since August. “With this outbreak and delta, the return to zero is incredibly difficult,” Ms Ardern told a press conference. “This is a change in approach we were always going to make over time. The delta outbreak has accelerated this transition. Vaccines will support it.” Strict lockdowns will end once 90 per cent of the eligible population is vaccinated – currently 41 per cent of the population has had two doses of vaccine and 68 per cent has had one dose.

Alongside Hong Kong, New Zealand was probably the last bastion of the Zero Covid strategy with Australia and Singapore both announcing a change in tack in recent months. Over the summer Singapore said it would learn to live with the virus, with its health minister saying that a recent spike in cases was a “rite of passage” for any country trying to make the transition out of a suppression strategy. It has seen cases tick up, but with 80 per cent of the population double vaccinated the virus is not out of control. Australia also announced the end of its “Covid zero” strategy in August with prime minister Scott Morrison saying it “was not a sustainable way to live”. But – like New Zealand – the country is waiting for the majority of its population (80 per cent) to be double vaccinated before ending its 18-month travel ban in November. click full source.

So there we have it. As someone who has supported a herd immunity strategy with focused protection (for the old and vulnerable) throughout the pandemic, it is difficult to argue against their covid zero strategy with such impressive results – New Zealand have recorded 5 deaths per million pop versus 2,000+ deaths per million pop for UK and USA, neither of whom pursued a herd immunity strategy, favouring strict unsuccessful lockdowns.

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