COVID-19: Minimisation and protection strategy for Aotearoa New Zealand

Protecting Aotearoa and New Zealanders from COVID-19 continues to be a priority for the Ministry of Health. The virus continues to evolve, with new variants emerging around the world. With this comes the need to move from a strategy of elimination to reflect new and emerging evidence about the virus and the effectiveness of vaccines.

Updated 7 December 2021

Elimination has served us well, delivering the lowest number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths in the OECD. Now, with a high uptake of vaccination across all populations, and a move away from Alert Levels and lockdowns, we can move to a new approach. 

Minimisation and protection

The minimisation and protection framework aims to protect both: 

  • those who are most at risk of severe disease/outcomes
  • the health system that is required to treat these people and continue to function to maintain other health services. 

This allows other priorities to be upheld, such as the importance of livelihoods and social connections, even in the context of a circulating virus. As such, impact on the necessities of life are ‘minimised’ and vital parts of society are ‘protected’. 

Importantly, minimisation means that we are aiming to keep the spread of COVID-19 as low as possible so while there will be some level of cases in the community on an ongoing basis, we will work to contain and control any outbreaks, and if practical to do so, stamp them out. 

Protection means that we won’t just treat COVID like a seasonal illness. We will protect people from it with vaccination, active public health measures including testing, isolation and contact tracing, and a response that focusses on minimising the significant health impacts we know it can have. 

Here are our focus areas to minimise and protect people.

High vaccination rates  

Our aim is for 90 percent (or more) vaccination rates in each DHB across New Zealand. This includes across all ethnicities, regions and ages. Pending approval by Medsafe and expert advice, vaccination will expand to the 5- to 11-year-old age group, and booster shots for everyone that is fully vaccinated to continue to provide protection form the virus.

COVID-19 Protection Framework

A move from Alert Levels to traffic lights – 3 settings that are designed to help us prevent and manage outbreaks and cases. While you could have cases in the community at any of the different settings, we can change these settings (Red, Orange, Green) to help to get number’s down to help protect people and address any undue pressure on our health system. 

A sustainable health system

We are working to ensure the health system, health workforce and our community partners are prepared for a sustainable response to COVID-19. This includes focussing on healthcare system capacity and capability.

Honouring Te Tiriti O Waitangi obligations and upholding equity principles continue to underpin our COVID response. This is to ensure that Māori, Pasifika, and other higher-risk communities or individuals are protected, and that the burden of combatting the virus and its impacts does not fall heavily on certain communities or groupings.

About the Elimination Strategy

In March 2020, New Zealand committed to an Elimination Strategy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which provided a sustained approach to keep it out, find it and stamp it out. This was an important approach toward a continually evolving virus and to keeping New Zealanders safe from COVID-19.

Under the elimination strategy, all activities were focused on getting to and maintaining ‘zero COVID-19’. This was vital when treatments and, importantly, effective vaccinations were unavailable. When we did get vaccines, it was important for us to rollout vaccination to those most at risk first - our border workers, older populations and those that had other health risks.

This strategy allowed New Zealanders to maintain freedoms and a quality of life in the face of COVID-19 that few other countries have enjoyed. Taking the learnings from the elimination strategy, we have moved from elimination to minimisation and protection under the COVID-19 Protection Framework.

For reference, the COVID-19 Elimination Strategy diagram is available to download.

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