New Zealand and Australia's 'zero cases' policy continues to crumble

New Zealand and Australia’s ‘zero cases’ policy continues to crumble as both nations see record numbers of Covid-19 infections

  • New Zealand recorded 62 new community infections, the highest since last April
  • Australia recorded nearly 1,000 total cases today, its pandemic record
  • Both countries have implemented harsh lockdowns in bid to eradicate Covid 

New Zealand and Australia are continuing to experience a surge in Covid cases despite their draconian lockdown measures which have proved powerless to prevent the contagious Delta variant.

New Zealand recorded another 62 community cases, with another in an isolation facility, in the largest single day jump of the latest outbreak.

It comes after Jacinda Ardern decided to extend lockdown measures this week in response to rising cases as her zero Covid policy becomes undone day by day. 

Staff members perform a test at the Museum of New Zealand in Wellington amid harsh lockdown measures and rising Covid cases

Her decision to extend lockdown was branded ‘absurd’ and ‘unfathomable’ in an attempt to totally eradicate the virus when confronted with the Delta variant, coupled with a slow vaccination rollout. 

The latest figures are the highest since last April last year when the record of 89 new daily cases was set.

Australian PM Scott Morrison, who has presided over similarly harsh lockdowns in response to relatively few cases, had said of New Zealand’s approach: ‘Any state and territory that thinks that somehow they can protect themselves from Covid with the Delta strain forever, that’s just absurd.

‘I mean, New Zealand can’t do that. They were following an elimination strategy. They’re in lockdown. The way through is to get to those 70 per cent and 80 per cent (vaccination) marks and open safely.’ 

Similarly, Australia is seeing rising cases and recorded nearly 1,000 new daily infections today, its highest number of the pandemic. 

New South Wales, experienced its own daily record, despite two months of lockdowns, with 919 new cases, with Greater Sydney making up 838 of the infections. 

People wait in line outside a vaccination clinic in the Bankstown suburb of Sydney which is experiencing record cases

New Zealand recorded another 62 community cases, with one other in an isolation facility today. Pictured: the normally busy Arras Tunnel lies empty in Wellington

A total of 113 people in the state are in intensive care, with 98 of those unvaccinated.

‘This highlights… the fact that vaccination is the key. We need to increase those vaccine coverage levels,’ NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said during a televised media briefing in Sydney, the state capital.

Australia, grappling to control a third wave of the coronavirus, has locked down more than half of its 25 million population, including its largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, and is accelerating an initially sluggish vaccine rollout.

Around 31 per cent of people aged over 16 have been fully vaccinated, while 54 per cent have had at least one dose.

Westmead Hospital, one of the largest in Sydney’s hard-hit western suburbs, has reduced ambulance arrivals for Covid-19 patients for 24 hours and shifted critical patients to other hospitals, an internal note shared on Twitter by NSW lawmaker Cate Faehrmann showed.

Asked about the changes, state Health Minister Brad Hazzard acknowledged the health system is working under pressure but said the situation is still manageable.

An empty playground at Frank Kitts Park during level 4 lockdown in Wellington, New Zealand

‘Westmead Hospital is typical of the sorts of pressures you would expect when you got a major hospital in the middle of the epicentre of the virus outbreak,’ he said. Around 80 per cent of cases have been detected in Sydney’s west.

In neighbouring Victoria, new cases fell for a second straight day to 45, down from 50 a day earlier, as officials sought to boost the vaccine rollout by allowing anyone over 16 to book an appointment from Wednesday.   

Despite the recent Delta outbreaks, Australia’s coronavirus numbers are still relatively low, with just over 46,600 cases and 986 deaths. 

Deaths from the latest outbreak have risen to 76, although the death rate has slowed from last year.

Police are issuing fines for residents in Sydney who do not observe the harsh lockdown restrictions

Virus-free Queensland said it would pause arrivals from NSW and Victoria states, and the Australian Capital Territory for two weeks from Wednesday to help ease pressure on its hotel quarantine system.

New Zealand’s virus-free run since February ended last week after an outbreak of the Delta variant erupted in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, and quickly spread to the capital Wellington. 

Jacinda Ardern had garnered global praise for stamping out Covid in the country, but her reliance on strict border controls and snap lockdowns has been called into question amid the latest outbreak, which has occurred while only 20 per cent of the population has been vaccinated. 

Opposition leader Judith Collins on Monday said: ‘At a time when New Zealanders have the harshest lockdown in the world and have lost our freedoms because of the government’s failure to vaccinate and secure the border, [the lockdown extension] by Jacinda Ardern is unfathomable.’

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