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Australia and New Zealand consider just living with Covid-19




With Covid-19 on the rise in Australia and New Zealand, officials in both countries have hinted at moving away from a strategy of eliminating the virus and instead learning to live with it. Australia has daily infection numbers nearing 1,000, setting new records each day and, while New Zealand had long avoided Covid-19 outbreaks, today the country reported 62 new cases, 210 total cases in the current outbreak there.

The numbers are relatively low compared to many parts of the world but still cause for concern for the countries that had been reasonably successful in containing and avoiding Covid-19 outbreaks. New Zealand had previously locked down after just one local transmission last week.

But now officials seem to be shifting strategies and accepting they can’t keep Covid-19 out. Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, published an opinion piece a few days ago saying that Covid-19 lockdowns are necessary for now, but can’t continue much longer. Indeed, Australians took to the streets around the country to protest lockdowns, with 47 arrests made at the Sydney protest and 218 arrests made in Melbourne from crowds estimated at over 4,000 people, hundreds of whom were unmasked.

The Australian government plans on monitoring closely the hospitalisations and severe infections, rather than the total number of cases in a shift from trying endlessly to rid Australia of Covid-19 completely to a focus on effectively treating those infected with the virus.

In New Zealand, the emergence of the much more transmissible Delta variant of Covid-19 has led government officials to question how long their strong lockdown policies can survive. The country’s Covid-19 Response Minister said that the outbreak of the newer variant makes the current protections seem inadequate. They pledged to investigate what further measures could be taken, but also rethink their long-term plans for dealing with Covid-19 in the event that it can’t be eradicated from the country.

The World Health Organisation says increased vaccination and maintaining health measures like masks and social distancing is crucial in beating Covid-19. A model study in England showed that 3 times fewer hospitalisations were needed because of a delay in lifting these safety measures. They warn the measures shouldn’t be eliminated until the local population is vaccinated enough.


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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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