Covid-19 briefing: 'It all comes down to vaccination' - PM

Tools used in the future to fight Covid-19 don't need to be as disruptive as the ones used now, as long as the country achieves a high vaccination rate, says the prime minister.

Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield have held a media briefing on the latest on the Delta outbreak.

There were 15 new community cases reported today.

Speaking at today's briefing, after the release of new modelling which suggests lockdowns may still be needed if the country achieved an 80 percent vaccination rate, Ardern said vaccine certificates, better ventilation, some mask use, and the possibility of changing border restrictions so a full 14-day quarantine isn't required could used in the future.

But for now vaccination is the main tool.

"It all comes down to vaccination."

She said lockdowns were needed in the first phase of the pandemic because there were no vaccines and everyone had to be isolated.

"With vaccines, we can turn that model on its head," she said, so positive cases can be isolated as others have the protection of vaccines.

"Children can't be vaccinated. It will reach them. And we've seen it reach them in this outbreak," she said.

The plan was never zero cases, but "zero tolerance" for Covid, she said.

Ardern said the government's plan for the future, included aggressively isolating cases, catching cases at the border, and ensuring the health system is not overwhelmed.

"It's not the Aotearoa way to leave anyone behind," she said.

"There remains one simple message - Get vaccinated."

Professor Shaun Hendy who spoke about the modelling at the briefing told Checkpoint the point of the modelling released today from Te Punaha Matatini was to give the government visibility over its policy choices.

"This is not meant to be a forecast. We don't think these measures would actually be used. Instead we'd be forced to go back to using lockdowns. That was the point of the modelling, to show how those trade-offs play off with vaccination rates and at what point you can get away from using lockdowns."

He said the modelling includes worst-case scenarios which are highly unlikely.

"I don't think any western government would really let that happen."

Some of the modelling shows that if vaccination was only 70 percent for 12 years and older, with basic public health measures, New Zealand could see more than 1 million cases, more than 90,000 hospitalisations, and about 12,000 deaths.

September 23, 2021