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What New Zealand's changing COVID strategy tells us about the pandemic's end

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a COVID-19 update press conference. (Robert Kitchin/Pool Photo via AP)
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses a COVID-19 update press conference. (Robert Kitchin/Pool Photo via AP)
This article is more than 1 year old.

New Zealand has imposed some of the toughest COVID restrictions in the world.

The goal was COVID elimination. It seemed to work ... until Delta.

Last week, the country changed course:

"Children can have a playdate in a park," prime minister Jacinda Ardern said. "Friends can meet outside for a walk, a picnic, or a beer."

So, New Zealand pivots to a new strategy, one that accounts for both vaccines and the Delta variant. What lessons can the U.S. learn?

"We have set unrealistic goals in terms of it’s only reopening the economy or it’s only eliminating all transmissions and infection," Dr. Celine Gounder said.

Today, On Point: A pandemic playbook reality check. We hear what national priorities need to be now.


Dr. Celine Gounder, infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at NYU and Bellevue Hospital. Co-host and producer of the podcasts "American Diagnosis" and "Epidemic," which focus on the coronavirus pandemic. Volunteer aid worker in Guinea during the Ebola outbreak. (@celinegounder)

Joseph Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science and director of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (@j_g_allen)

Dale Fisher, infectious disease physician at National University Hospital. Professor at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. Chair of the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network at the World Health Organization. (@profdalefisher)

Also Featured

Lucy Lawless, actress and singer best known for her role as the title character in the television series Xena: Warrior Princess. (@RealLucyLawless)

Siouxsie Wiles, microbiologist and science communicator at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. (@SiouxsieW)

Ben Cowling, professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, School of Public Health, The University of Hong Kong. (@bencowling88)

This program aired on October 11, 2021.


Meghna Chakrabarti Twitter Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.


Hilary McQuilkin Producer, On Point
Hilary McQuilkin is a producer for On Point.



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