SYDNEY (Reuters) – New Zealand must prepare for new coronavirus outbreaks as the pandemic spreads globally but will not drop its elimination strategy if community transmission was discovered, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday.
Ardern said the epidemic was now “exploding” outside New Zealand and countries that had been models in the fight against COVID-19 had now experienced further community outbreaks.
The government released a new framework on how it intended to fight the virus in the event of new cases, with elimination still the central strategy.
“No system is 100% fool proof and around the world we are seeing even the most rigorous measures being tested by the virus,” she told reporters in Wellington.
The South Pacific nation last reported a case of community transmission two-and-a-half months ago. It has recorded 22 deaths from nearly 1,200 confirmed cases as of Wednesday.
New Zealand had vowed to eliminate, not merely contain, the virus, which meant stopping transmission for two weeks after the last known case was cleared.
Officials in Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales said elimination is no longer possible there due to fresh outbreaks following the easing of lockdown restrictions.
(Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Stephen Coates)