New Zealand eases lockdown as it ditches zero Covid policy

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Watch: New Zealand abandons its COVID elimination strategy

New Zealand’s government has admitted the country can no longer completely get rid of the coronavirus.

It has reported 27 deaths in the pandemic so far.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has pursued a zero-tolerance approach to the Covid-19 through strict lockdowns when just one case was reported and aggressive contact tracing.

The government’s elimination approach had been broadly supported by New Zealanders but over the weekend, hundreds of people turned out to rallies protesting the lockdown.

“For this outbreak, it’s clear that long periods of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases,” Ardern said.

“But that is OK. Elimination was important because we didn’t have vaccines. Now we do, so we can begin to change the way we do things.”

Ardern said seven weeks of lockdown restrictions in Auckland had helped keep the outbreak under control to more than 1,300 cases, with 29 more detected on Monday. 

From Tuesday, Aucklanders will be able to meet outdoors with loved ones from one other household.

Early childhood centres will also reopen and people will be able to go to the beach.

New Zealand remained largely virus-free until an outbreak of the Delta variant in August.

Previously, New Zealanders went back to workplaces as well as school yards and sports stadiums safe from any community spread while other places in the world faced rising death tolls and disrupted lives last year.

Watch: Global COVID-19 deaths hit 5 million

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