Ardern made the remark while announcing plans to ease lockdown restrictions in Auckland, allowing residents to be able to meet up with loved ones from one other household and go to the beach starting Tuesday. Early childhood education centers will also reopen.
“For this outbreak, it’s clear that long periods of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases,” Ardern said. “But that is OK. Elimination was important because we didn’t have vaccines. Now we do, so we can begin to change the way we do things.”
Since the beginning of the global pandemic, New Zealand pushed a zero-tolerance approach to the coronavirus by implementing strict lockdowns and aggressive contact tracing.
While slowly returning back to normal life, the country experienced a new COVID-19 outbreak in August.
Ardern said that the seven-week lockdown in Auckland helped control the current situation, the AP reported.
The recent outbreak has led to more than 1,300 cases, with 29 new infections being detected on Monday.
Sixty-five percent of New Zealanders have received one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with 40 percent of citizens now fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates have slowed after initially rising in response to the current outbreak, the AP noted.