Australia and New Zealand have often been described as two of the great success stories of the pandemic. Both have pursued a strategy of elimination, closing their borders and cracking down on cases through a ruthless policy of lockdowns. Both have kept their Covid death figures low by international comparison.
But as much of the rest of the developed world has used vaccination to find a new equilibrium with the virus as a manageable illness, Australia and New Zealand have remained stuck in a damaging cycle of lockdowns as they have sought to crush outbreaks of any size. Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, at least seems to have realised how unsustainable this is.
Australia can't "stay in the cave forever", he has said while attempting to persuade states to reopen once enough people have been vaccinated. But Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand's leader, shows little sign of adapting her strategy. She appears resolute in her conviction that Covid can be extinguished by government fiat.
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It is a policy that is increasingly detached from all facts and reason. Ardern's country has been slow to vaccinate its population, perhaps partly out of a false sense of security that Covid could be kept at bay through restrictions. But even if it were to attain 100 per cent vaccination rates, the virus would still be able to spread because the jabs do not entirely stop transmission.
So-called Zero Covid has been exposed as dangerous hubris, with the virus likely to circulate globally for the indefinite future. Which begs the question: how does Ardern propose that her country escape from its lockdown trap? Or does she expect New Zealand to live in its present state of paranoia forever, never able to return to normal?