New Zealand’s COVID elimination strategy fails

Auckland has been in a lockdown since 18 August with the Ardern Government still aiming to eliminate the virus.

Yesterday, the government received a harsh dose of reality when New Zealand recorded 45 new coronavirus infections, 12 of which were unlinked:

As reported by Interest.co.nz:

Of these cases, 33 are household or close contacts. Of the 26 household contacts, 12 come from two households, with six in each. Many of these cases were ‘expected’ and likely to arise from household and other close contacts.

The remaining 12 are unlinked. At this stage, six of these look likely to be linked.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the outbreak is currently concentrated among large households, involving people living in transitional and emergency housing.

The Ministry of Health said: “Now that Auckland is at Alert Level 3, some of these people may have been working in essential or permitted businesses during their infectious periods.

The Ardern is stubbornly sticking to its COVID elimination policy:

[New Zealand’s COVID-19 Minister] Chris Hipkins said the jump from eight on Tuesday to 45 on Wednesday was ‘sobering’, but wouldn’t change NZ’s elimination strategy.

‘We have seen blips already in this outbreak … and it’s gone down again,’ he said.

‘We’ve still got to hold our nerve here … we’re still pursuing COVID-19. We’re still aiming to run it into the ground.’

However, the Opposition has called for lockdowns to end once 70-75% of the eligible population is vaccinated, and for quarantine-free travel allowed at 85% for those who are fully vaccinated:

The National party’s leader, Judith Collins, said elimination had worked while vaccines were under development, but now the plan must change. “If adopted, National’s plan means Kiwis overseas could come home to spend this Christmas with loved ones or take an overseas holiday for new year’s,” Collins said.

Collins said the prime minister had not offered a specific vaccine target while “ministers throw around numbers willy-nilly”.

New Zealand’s vaccination rate is currently lagging other developed nations with only 38% of the total population (not the eligible population, which would be higher) fully vaccinated:

Personally, I believe New Zealand should opt for a similar roadmap to NSW, which will:

  • partially open at 70% for vaccinated residents;
  • fully open at 80% for vaccinated residents; and
  • fully open to all at 90%.

I’d be interested in hearing from any Kiwis about what the mood is in New Zealand. Is there a large contingent of people sick of lockdowns and wanting to open up?

Unconventional Economist

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