New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently revealed that the country would soon move away from a zero COVID strategy and transition to a living with the virus approach.
Since last year, New Zealand has only reported over 4,000 COVID-19 cases and around 27 deaths, the lowest number for any country.
For 18 months, New Zealand employed a zero COVID strategy that benefited them and their people. And other countries like China and Taiwan also had a similar approach, which involved strict lockdowns, according to CNBC.
New Zealand PM knows Delta is too strong to beat
But following the rise in new COVID-19 cases in August, PM Ardern has decided to join other countries in living with the virus approach.
In August, the rise in COVID-19 cases hit Auckland hard and resulted in a lengthy lockdown in the city. And despite all the restrictions in place, Auckland still reported 24 new COVID-19 cases earlier this week.
While at a conference on Tuesday, PM Ardern said that it has always been New Zealand's goal to transition to living with the virus after months of employing the zero COVID strategy. However, the transition will be sped up due to the rising COVID-19 cases.
"To date we've managed to largely control the outbreak, but as you can see with this outbreak and with Delta, the return to zero is incredibly difficult," PM Ardern said via CNN.
New Zealand has been on a strict lockdown for months
PM Ardern also said that long and strict lockdowns didn't get New Zealand to zero cases this time around. But she's confident that a zero COVID strategy had to be done months ago when vaccines were not readily available.
PM Ardern is also urging all New Zealanders to get vaccinated. As of press writing, at least 49 percent of the country has already been fully vaccinated. And about 79 percent have received their first dose.
Australians end zero COVID strategy
Vaccination certificates will also be required for those that want to attend festivals and other public events.
Two months ago, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that New Zealand could start easing restrictions once 80 percent of the country is already vaccinated.
In August, Australia also announced its decision to abandon its zero COVID strategy.
Australia's PM Scott Morrison said that having strict lockdowns is no longer a sustainable way to live.
Just like New Zealand, Australia also used an approach called "covid zero," which aimed to stamp the outbreaks down to the last case.
But despite their efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the country soon learned that they couldn't do much.
Instead, Australia changed its approach and now allows COVID-19 cases to rise for as long as hospitals accommodate new patients.
Australia's goal remains the same, and that is to drop most of their restrictions once 80 percent of residents are already fully vaccinated, according to The Economist.
Sydney will also ease their restrictions once 70 percent of the state's population over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated.