Critics were quick to take a jibe at New Zealand when it went into lockdown last week as a single Delta case was reported. The reaction to the country’s approach is a representation of the stark difference in how different countries are handling COVID-19 across the globe.
While some like the United Kingdom have accepted that the virus may never leave and are adjusting to a life with it, New Zealand is committed to driving it away for good.
Soon after the first Delta case was reported, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered the entire nation into lockdown. As of Friday, it has spread to 347 cases, with one hospitalised and under intensive care.
"Fortress New Zealand" has been breached.
It has prompted questions whether zero COVID strategy is effective when the entire world is swamped with the highly contagious Delta variant.
Ardern, for now, is doubling down on the strategy, despite the country being called a “hermit nation”. However, the nation’s COVID-19 response minister thinks otherwise and has indicated that the approach might not be long-lasting.
New Zealand’s tough border had been the ideal shield against the virus, until Delta arrived.
New Zealand has reported just over 3,000 cases and 26 deaths, so far.
Another hard-hit sector due to fortified borders is that of tourism. Overseas visitor count dropped down by over 98% in January 2021 compared with a year before.
New Zealand's Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said told CNN, "It does mean that all of our existing protections start to look less adequate and less robust," he said. "As a result of that, we are looking very closely at what more we can do there. But it does raise some very big questions about the long-term future of our plans."
New Zealand has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates with barely 20% of the population fully vaccinated.