AUCKLAND, New Zealand — When New Zealand, for the primary time in months, reported a case of neighborhood unfold of the coronavirus on Aug. 17, residents sprang into motion. They stripped grocery store cabinets of pasta and bathroom paper, dug socked-away masks out of drawers and fled to trip properties within the mountains or on the seaside.
Hours later got here the anticipated announcement: The nation, after that single case of the Delta variant, would plunge right into a extremely restrictive three-day lockdown. New Zealand, one of many final nations to nonetheless pursue “Covid zero,” would intention to eradicate the virus as soon as once more, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stated at a information convention that day.
“Whereas we all know that Delta is a extra harmful enemy to fight,” she stated, “the identical actions that overcame the virus final yr will be utilized to beat it.”
Two weeks later, New Zealand remains to be in lockdown, one that may final at the very least one other 14 days. One case has develop into practically 700, with virtually three dozen requiring hospitalization. And the acquainted playbook that has made New Zealand an envied mannequin all through the pandemic is struggling to comprise a way more contagious variant of the virus.
“The problem is eliminating Delta,” stated Rodney Jones, an adviser to the New Zealand authorities on the pandemic. “No nation has eradicated Delta.”
For now, New Zealand seems practically unified behind the trouble to attempt, with lockdown compliance excessive and religion in public well being officers sturdy. However Ms. Ardern and different leaders have begun to acknowledge that New Zealand could finally have to vary course because the virus continues to unfold — 75 new instances have been reported on Wednesday, up from round 50 every of the 2 earlier days — and its vaccination marketing campaign lags. That will imply tolerating some unfold of the virus to maintain society extra open, a technique pursued to various levels in virtually each developed nation.