New Zealand changes COVID strategy as Delta rises

The Pacific nation was among just a handful of countries to bring COVID-19 cases down to zero last year and largely stayed virus-free until an outbreak of the highly infections Delta variant in mid-August frustrated efforts to stamp out transmission.

Health authorities reported 29 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday (October 4), taking the total number in the current outbreak to 1,357. The majority of the cases are in its largest city Auckland, which has been in lockdown for nearly 50 days.

Amid mounting pressure, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said her strategy was never to have zero cases, but to aggressively stamp out the virus.

She said strict lockdowns will end once 90% of the eligible population is vaccinated. About two million New Zealanders have so far been fully vaccinated, or about 48% of the eligible population.

People in Auckland will be able to leave their homes to connect with loved ones outdoors from Wednesday (October 6), with a limit of 10 people. Ardern said remaining restrictions in Auckland will be eased in phases.

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