New Zealand Targets Ambitious Vaccination Program

The New Zealand government on Friday (22/10), set an ambitious target of vaccinating 90 percent of eligible people to end lockdown related to the corona virus.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is under pressure to relax restrictions on people living in Auckland, who have undergone lockdown for more than two months.

Under the new framework, people living in New Zealand’s largest city will regain a lot of freedom after 90 percent of people 12 years and over in each of the three districts are fully vaccinated.

In other parts of the country, where no clusters of the virus have spread, they will get even more freedom once they reach their 90 percent target. However, people will still be required to present a vaccine certificate to visit places such as bars, restaurants and gyms.

PM Jacinda Arden at a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand, October 4, 2021.

PM Jacinda Arden at a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand, October 4, 2021.

“Basically, if you go to bars, restaurants and businesses that allow close proximity to other people like hair salons, you have to be vaccinated,” Ardern said at a conference in Wellington on Friday.

Ardern was disturbed by a mild earthquake amid the announcement of the plan. He was listening to a question from a journalist when the earthquake occurred.

The government has also pledged more funds to help businesses struggling due to the lockdown, and increased vaccination among Maori, New Zealand’s indigenous population, where vaccination rates are lagging.

New Zealand’s vaccination target is set higher than in many other countries, but Ardern said Auckland was confident it could be reached within weeks.

Currently 89 per cent of eligible Auckland residents have taken at least one dose and 73 per cent have received both doses, levels slightly above New Zealand’s national average.

The new plan requires that each of New Zealand’s 20 health districts reach the 90 percent target.

Ardern did not directly discuss what would happen if some districts failed to reach targets, though indicated there could be exceptions if vaccination rates were close to target. [ab/ka]

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