Delta Variant Hampers New Zealand’s Pandemic Response

The most infectious Covid-19 Delta variant has hampered New Zealand’s pandemic response.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the most transmissible strain “does raise some big questions” about the country’s strategy to deal with the increase in Covid-19 cases.

The Delta variant “changes the game considerably” and makes current measures “look less adequate,” he added.

The minister’s comments came as New Zealand confirmed 21 more infections in its latest outbreak.

New Zealand’s government has successfully controlled the pandemic since last year, preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus with strong measures, including closing borders.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, New Zealand has recorded 3,016 cases and 26 confirmed deaths.

However, authorities recently imposed a snap lockdown after a man in Auckland tested positive for the Delta variant.

Health officials said there are 72 active cases currently. But concern has grown after positive cases were detected among students at seven schools in the city.

Authorities also reported six infections in the capital Wellington.

The lockdown is set to expire on Tuesday, but officials warned they would likely extend the strict restrictions in Auckland.

On Sunday, Hipkins said the government remained focused on eliminating the virus inside New Zealand.

“The reality though is that a virus that can be infectious within 24 hours of someone getting it – that changes the game considerably,” he said while speaking to the media.

“It does mean that all of our existing protections… start to look less adequate and less robust,” he stated, adding that it raises “some pretty big questions about what the long-term future of our plans are.”

But he expects that the country will begin to progressively open in the future.

Earlier this month, the prime minister also announced that national borders would remain closed until the end of the year, hoping to vaccinate the country’s 5-million population by then.

Meanwhile, critics have questioned the national vaccine campaign rollout, saying New Zealand has one of the lowest numbers of fully vaccinated people among the world’s most economically prosperous nations.

New Zealand Ministry of Health’s website said more than 960,000 people had received two shots.

About 1.7 million New Zealanders have received a dose, it added.