Delta outbreak tests New Zealand's zero Covid strategy : Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

A split on how countries around the world are dealing with Covid. More than 18 months into the pandemic, some countries, including the United Kingdom, have admitted they may never eliminate the virus - so instead, they are learning to live with it.

Delta outbreak tests New Zealand's zero Covid strategy : Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

When New Zealand went into lockdown last week over a Delta case, critics were quick to mock the country's risk-averse approach.British newspapers did not back down. The Times called New Zealand a "mysterious socialist sane nation" where the public "rot in a Covid prison", while The Telegraph described the once welcoming country as an "isolated dystopia". A split on how countries around the world are dealing with Covid. More than 18 months into the pandemic, some countries, including the United Kingdom, have admitted they may never eliminate the virus - so instead, they are learning to live with it.

In contrast, New Zealand is one of the few countries that is still committed to getting Covid out. Hours after confirming the country's first Delta case in the community, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered the entire country into lockdown, backed by a broad consensus across the country. political spectrum. Ten days later, the outbreak had spread to 347 cases, with one person in intensive care as of Friday.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to the media at a news conference on August 23, 2021 in Wellington, New Zealand.This raises the question of whether an effort to eradicate community transmission known as the zero COVID strategy still makes sense in a swampy world with the highly contagious Delta variant.

For now, Ardern is doubling down on strategy, even as neighboring Australia shuns the approach. And for now, it looks like the public remains on board—even if it means "heroic nation." But New Zealand's own COVID-19 response minister has indicated that the outlook may not last forever. The big question for New Zealand will be what their new strategy might look like.

Until the arrival of the delta, New Zealand's strict border rules had protected it from the turmoil seen in most other countries.For most of the pandemic, the country has operated essentially as normal - sporting games, concerts, public functions and meals have all proceeded as they did before the pandemic.So far, New Zealand has recorded just over 3,000 cases and 26 deaths.

But a comparatively low death toll has been paid. An estimated 1 million New Zealanders live overseas, about 600,000 in Australia, and many of New Zealand's 5 million residents likely have at least one friend or relative living abroad.Some have not seen their loved ones for more than a year.

In March 2020, New Zealand closed its borders to almost all foreigners, and subsequently required almost all returning visitors to spend two weeks in a managed isolation facility at their own cost. Spaces are limited to about 4,000 rooms a fortnight, and just over 167,000 people have passed through managed isolation facilities since March 2020. Fortified borders have also contributed to another major casualty: tourism. Once the country's largest export industry, foreign visitor arrivals declined by more than 98% in January 2021 compared to a year earlier.