WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s government has acknowledged what most other countries did long ago: It can no longer completely get rid of the coronavirus.
Since early in the pandemic, New Zealand had pursued an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the virus through strict lockdowns and aggressive contact tracing.
That worked until recently but changed in August when an outbreak of the more contagious delta variant took hold.
That outbreak is still simmering, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a cautious plan to ease lockdown restrictions starting Tuesday.
She said the elimination strategy was important while the country had no vaccines.
The country reports that about half of its eligible population are fully vaccinated and 79% have received their first dose of the vaccine.
“There’s good cause for us to feel optimistic about the future,” Ardern said Monday.
Air New Zealand said it is ready to reconnect with the world. It said it will require foreign travelers to be fully vaccinated starting in 2022.