New Zealand will end tough virus restrictions
New Zealand will adopt a new system of living with the coronavirus from December 3, which will end tough restrictions and allow businesses to operate in its biggest city, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said yesterday.
New Zealand remained largely COVID-19 free until August but has been unable to beat an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant, forcing Ardern to abandon an elimination strategy and switch to treating the virus as endemic. Its biggest city, Auckland, has been in lockdown for over 90 days
"The hard truth is that Delta is here and not going away, but New Zealand is well set to tackle it because of our high vaccination rates and our latest safety measures including the traffic light system and Vaccine Pass," Ardern said in a statement.
The new system will rate regions as red, orange or green depending on their level of exposure to COVID-19 and vaccination rates. Auckland, the epicenter of the Delta outbreak, will start at red, making face masks mandatory and putting limits on gatherings at public places.
About 83 percent of eligible New Zealanders are vaccinated, while 88 percent have had their first shot. The government had said it would drop lockdown measures and move to the traffic-light system to manage outbreaks after 90 percent of the eligible population was vaccinated.
Along with its geographic isolation, New Zealand enforced some of the tightest pandemic restrictions among OECD nations, limiting the spread of COVID-19 and helping its economy bounce back faster than many of its peers.
The country of 5 million has reported 7,000 cases and just 39 deaths.