New Zealand’s government has acknowledged what most other countries did long ago: it can no longer completely get rid of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a cautious plan to ease lockdown restrictions in Auckland, despite an outbreak there that continues to simmer.
Since early in the pandemic, New Zealand had pursued an unusual zero-tolerance approach to the virus through strict lockdowns and aggressive contact tracing.
Until recently, that elimination strategy had worked remarkably well for the country of five million, which has reported just 27 virus deaths.
While other nations faced rising death tolls and disrupted lives, New Zealanders went back to workplaces, schools and sports stadiums safe from any community spread.
But that all changed when the more contagious Delta variant somehow escaped from a quarantine facility in August after it was brought into the country by a traveller returning from Australia.
New Zealand went into the strictest form of lockdown after just a single local case was detected, but it was not enough to halt the outbreak.