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Wellington (AFP) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that she will lift the three-and-a-half-month lockdown in the country’s largest city, Auckland, in December by adopting a new strategy to combat the coronavirus.
He noted that on December 2, New Zealand will implement a new response to covid-19 that will seek to contain the contagious delta variant rather than try to eradicate it completely.
“The harsh reality is that Delta is here and it won’t go,” the president told reporters.
“No country has been able to completely eliminate the delta variant, but New Zealand is in a better position than most countries to deal with it,” he said.
New Zealand’s response to the coronavirus has been based on strict restrictions, strict contact control, and border closures.
With that, it had just 40 deaths out of its five million residents, but pressure has grown to lift the lockdown in Auckland, in effect since August when the delta variant was discovered.
Ardern initially planned to adopt the new system when the vaccination rate reached 90%, but set a date for December 2 even though the current level is 83%.
Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said he was comfortable with the most significant adjustment to COVID-19 policy since the start of the pandemic.
“You could say we’re going to get to this point in the best possible shape,” Bloomfield said.
“We have got the outbreak under control, summer is coming and we have high and increasing vaccination rates,” he added.
Ardern said proof of vaccination will soon be required to enter some places, such as bars, gyms and restaurants.
Auckland is currently still cut off from the rest of the country but roadblocks will be lifted on December 15.
New Zealand will maintain quarantine requirements for those coming from abroad, but Ardern has pledged to ease that requirement early next year.
© 2021 AFP
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