Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that she wants New Zealand to get as close as possible to vaccinating 90 percent of its total population, a level that she said would allow the nation to avoid future lockdowns in response to the coronavirus.
The government is reviewing a new study, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, that shows that lockdowns would not be necessary once vaccination levels reached 90 percent, Ms. Ardern said in Auckland on Thursday.
She declined to set a target, instead urging residents to get a shot and saying that she hoped New Zealand would have one of the highest vaccination rates. So far, over a third of the nation has received is fully vaccinated and 65 percent is at least partly vaccinated, according to Our World In Data.
“The more people are vaccinated, the fewer restrictions we will have to live with in the future,” Ms. Ardern said. “It all comes down to vaccination.”
New Zealand has committed itself to eliminating the virus through lockdowns, quarantines and closing of borders. Cases have remained extremely low, and Ms. Ardern has been one of the few world leaders to find their reputation enhanced by their handling of the pandemic. But the approach has put pressure on residents across the country who have been confined to their home for periods of as long as five weeks during outbreaks.
Leaders across the Asia Pacific region have admitted in the past few weeks that a strategy to keep Covid cases at zero is not sustainable more than 18 months into the pandemic. In Australia, the government is considering opening borders before Christmas. And Singapore has started loosening quarantine rules, while Hong Kong is allowing more vaccinated travelers to enter.
New Zealand’s health minister said this week that a full Covid-elimination strategy may not be possible anymore.
“We may not get back to zero but the important thing is we are going to keep finding any infections and basically continue to contact trace, test and isolate people so that we stop the virus circulating in the community,” Ashley Bloomfield, the country’s director general of health, told Radio New Zealand on Wednesday.
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