Will New Zealand succeed in eradicating the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 from its territory? Is the zero Covid-19 policy still relevant? Tuesday August 17, after the discovery of a single case in this archipelago of five million inhabitants, the first of local origin for six months, the head of government, Jacinda Ardern, decided to confine, on Wednesday, the the entire population for three days. The two cities where the infected person has stayed, Auckland and Coromandel, are expected to be kept under cover for seven days. It is by relying on the formula “act fast and strong”, which has made the country successful in the face of the coronavirus, that the Labor elected representative hopes to overcome this variant.

Seen from the outside, closing everything for a single case might seem disproportionate. But the virus elimination strategy has allowed us, since the start of the pandemic, to live very freely, with excellent economic results, while only deploring twenty-six deaths., underlines Michael Baker, professor of public health at the University of Otago, in Wellington. Today, faced with the Delta variant, the authorities have opted for immediate and very restrictive containment. It is difficult to see what more they could do. “

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The New Zealand government calls it the “Alert level 4”, the highest in the hierarchy of measures he has established to control the epidemic. It had only been used once, so far, in March 2020, when the coronavirus had started to spread in New Zealand. It is a particularly severe confinement, which authorizes only strictly essential activities and induces the closure of nurseries, schools, shops, restaurants and cafes, including for take-out products.

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In 2020, coupled with the closure of international borders, it had allowed the country to get rid of the virus in a few weeks. Wellington had since ordered only three short, flexible and localized lockdowns when rare cases emerged following leaks in the hotel quarantine system mandatory for anyone allowed to enter the archipelago.

A thousand times higher viral load

How the Delta variant, which is said to have a viral load a thousand times that of the original strain that appeared in Wuhan, China, infected a New Zealand man in his 50s unrelated to people who recently traveled or worked at the borders? Health officials do not yet know it, but they have determined, through genomic sequencing, that the virus came from New South Wales, the Australian state facing a wave of unprecedented magnitude since the variant was released. guest on the island-continent, June 16.

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