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New Zealand launches inquiry into its coronavirus response

Published:Monday | December 5, 2022 | 9:41 PM
Technicians take samples at a community COVID testing center in Auckland, New Zealand, December 28, 2021. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday, December 5, 2022, announced it was launching a high-level independent inquiry into its coronavirus response. (Brett Phibbs/New Zealand Herald via AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand is launching a wide-ranging inquiry into whether it made the right decisions in battling COVID-19 and how it can better prepare for future pandemics.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday the coronavirus had posed the greatest threat to the nation's health and economy since World War II.

She said now was an appropriate time to examine the government's response with the highest level of independent inquiry.

Among the questions will be whether or not New Zealand took the right approach initially by imposing strict lockdowns and border quarantine restrictions in order to try and wipe out the virus entirely.

That zero-tolerance strategy was initially hailed internationally as a success because New Zealand's death rate remained much lower than in most other countries and people were able to continue life much as normal.

But over time, the downsides of the elimination approach came into clearer focus as the economic and social costs rose. Some citizens faced big delays returning home due to a bottleneck at border quarantine facilities.

The government eventually abandoned its elimination approach in October 2021 after new and more contagious variants proved impossible to contain and people were given the chance to get vaccinated.

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