New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Friday that the country will end lockdown from COVID-19 once 90% of its citizens are fully vaccinated.
The country, with a population of 5 million, has been one of the best in the world at containing the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, largely because New Zealand has closed its borders for most of the past 18 months to non-residents.
For the most part, the strategy to eliminate COVID-19 has worked, with the country reporting only 28 deaths during the pandemic. Much of the country was almost back to normal earlier this year.
But in August, a variant of the Delta virus triggered an outbreak in the country’s largest city, Auckland. The city of 2 million has been locked down for most of the past nine weeks.
At a press conference in the capital, Wellington, Ardern said that while the nation should be proud of everything it achieved in the early months of the pandemic, the delta option made it very difficult to implement its eradication strategy. She said that instead of staying locked up, it’s better to move forward through vaccinations.
Ardern said that through consultation with experts and a study of the data, officials set vaccination criteria of 90% for each of the country’s 20 district health regions. Once that goal is achieved in the area, she said, people can do what they want, provided they provide proof of vaccination.
The prime minister said, “Basically, if you want to be sure that no matter what environment we are in, you can go to bars, restaurants and nearby businesses like a hairdresser, you need to get vaccinated.”
New Zealand’s Ministry of Health reports that as of Friday, 58 percent of the entire population has been fully vaccinated.
Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.