Until very recently, Aotearoa NZ was clearly using an elimination strategy for Covid-19 control. Also, the Government had released (in August 2021) a fairly clear approach to Reconnecting New Zealanders to the World. The latter was also based on continuing the elimination strategy (for at least the short-term), while achieving high vaccine coverage; and increasing connections with the world to allow larger numbers of New Zealanders to safely enter the country.
The current Delta variant outbreak in Auckland (with spread into parts of the Waikato and possibly Northland), has resulted in somewhat unclear strategic messaging from the NZ Government. Our best guess is that the Government has shifted to a “regional suppression” strategy for Auckland, while still trying for “regional elimination” in the rest of NZ. But it has used unclear phrasing around “transitioning” away from elimination without specifying the new strategy that will replace it. This situation is uncharacteristic given the Government’s impressive record in strategic clarity, coherent policies, and effective public communication throughout the pandemic.
Here we outline a potential strategic direction to support a coherent programme of interventions that could minimise the adverse health impact of Covid-19. A further specific advantage of this approach is that if the Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland deteriorates, then healthcare resources can be shifted to Auckland from Covid-19-free regions of the country (eg, additional ICU nurses and doctors moving into Auckland).
If successful, this approach could help NZ fully resume its “Reconnecting” plan which includes achieving high vaccine coverage and then a phased increase in travel in and out of the country.