After 18 months of a Covid-19 elimination strategy, New Zealand announced the end of plan for the “total elimination” of the coronavirus, to make way for a new model that will rely on vaccination rates to relax confinement restrictions. This generated concern in the population and criticism from experts for moving towards less strict measures with a vaccination plan that advances slowly and with the uncertainty due to the Delta variant.
The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, who garnered great popularity and support from the population for his handling of the pandemic, assured that the virus elimination strategy “was important because we did not have vaccines,” but that it is time to change the measures.
“Now we have them, so we can start to change the way we do things. We have more options and we have good reasons to be optimistic about the future, but we cannot rush, “he said at a press conference days ago.
“Vaccines mean that in the future we will be able to do things differently, but even then, our strategy remains: as long as the cases continue, we want to control the virus, end the cases and prevent hospital admissions. With the vaccines we have more options.” , said the official.
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It is the first time in the pandemic so far that the New Zealand government has publicly acknowledged that it will set aside the positioning that earned it a position as an ehe most successful country in the fight against the pandemic, with around 4,352 infections and 27 deaths.
However, the authorities have not been able to control the outbreak that has affected the city of Auckland since August, the worst since the start of the pandemic with 1,314 infections despite the strict confinement that has been in force for seven weeks in the city.
Almost two months after an outbreak due to the Delta variant, Ardern announced that restrictions in the city will be relaxed in stages., with the authorization for groups of up to 10 people from a maximum of two different homes to meet outdoors, and the reopening of nursery schools.
The strict confinements, he said, may end when 90 percent of the population has the complete vaccination scheme, a figure still distant: so far, 46 percent of those over 12 years old have received both doses and 76 percent have at least one.
Despite the new openings and the change in guidelines, Ardern considered that “It is still necessary to contain and control the virus as much as possible” to guarantee public health.
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The challenge facing Jacinda Ardern
For political analysts and government consultants, this change implies a great challenge for the figure of Jacinda Ardern and the acceptance by the citizens of New Zealand, as stated The Guardian.
With a very convincing removal campaign and concrete results, The prime minister’s work garnered strong support, with polls surpassing 80% of the go-ahead for most of the pandemic.
Ben Thomas, Communications Consultant and Former National Government Staff MemberHe noted: “Part of the prime minister’s problem is that she did a good job of uniting New Zealanders to this cause, convincing them, correctly, that elimination was an achievable goal and instilling a real fear of the virus. It is something very difficult to overcome ”.
Clint Smith, a former Ardern communications strategist, considered that with this change “there will be continuous restrictions, more cases, more deaths, and that is something that New Zealand has not really seen yet.”
The elimination strategy, said the political communication specialist, “It was something New Zealanders could be proud of, it brought us together and became a common goal.”
Now, he stressed, the challenge will be that the government will have to find a new common goal, which will probably be vaccination rates, which at the moment are not advancing at great speed. “That is the great challenge facing Jacinda and her team now.”
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