New Zealand to end Covid lockdowns, ease restrictions
Sydney, Australia, Nov 22 (EFE).- After nearly two years of one of the strictest Covid-19 containment measures in the world, New Zealand on Monday announced that it would end its lockdown strategy thanks to the progress of the vaccination program, even as restrictions have been brought back in some European countries.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that from Dec. 3, the over 5 million inhabitants of New Zealand would instead follow a color-coded alert system similar to traffic lights, which would determine the Covid-19 risk level in the area.
“While no country has been able to eliminate Delta completely, New Zealand is better positioned than most to tackle it,” Ardern said in a press briefing.
However, the prime minister admitted that risks from the Delta strain of the coronavirus remained and urged all citizens to get vaccinated.
“The hard truth is that Delta is here and not going away. (…) The number one thing every New Zealander can do to prepare for the new system is to get vaccinated,” she aid.
The easing of restrictions signifies that New Zealand has been able to successfully control an outbreak of the Delta variant that began in August and led to the authorities reintroducing the strict “zero Covid” policy as they tried to speed up vaccinations
The new system has been launched at a time when around 83 percent of the target population has been vaccinated and rules out lockdowns, while areas with with the maximum alert level, such as Auckland, would be able to organize physical classes in schools observing distancing measures and with the mandatory use of masks.
Similarly, the residents of Auckland – the most populated city in the country with around 1.7 million inhabitants – would be able to travel to the rest of the country from Dec. 15 after being sealed in since mid-August when the city was put under lockdown. However, they would need to carry proof of vaccination or a negative RT-PCR test.
New Zealand has so far reported around 10,200 Covid infections since the beginning of the pandemic – out of which around 4,640 remain active – and 40 deaths, one of the lowest in the world,
Its strategy to control infections has been lauded as one of the most successful worldwide, and has resulted in international borders being largely sealed since March 2020, even for its own citizens leaving the country, except travel bubbles with Australia and a few Pacific countries.