Lockdowns, according to New Zealand’s Ardern, can result in high vaccine uptake.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that the country should aim for a 90 percent or higher rate of immunisation and that strict coronavirus lockdown measures could be lifted once enough people had been vaccinated.

COVID-19 was eradicated in New Zealand last year, and the country remained largely virus-free until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in August prompted a nationwide lockdown.

With its largest city, Auckland, still under lockdown and new cases being reported on a daily basis, Ardern said vaccinations will be the primary tool against the virus, allowing authorities to isolate only those who are infected.

“If that rate (of vaccinations) is high enough then we will be able to move away from lockdowns as a tool,” she said.

The highest possible vaccine rates will give the most freedoms, Ardern said, adding that the country should be aiming for a 90% plus rate of vaccination.

After a sluggish start to its vaccination campaign, some 40% of adult New Zealanders are fully vaccinated and about 75% have had at least one dose.

Authorities reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, all in Auckland, taking the total number of cases in the current outbreak to 1,123.

The Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield warned earlier this week that New Zealand may not get to zero COVID cases again.

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