Australian PM Scott Morrison hits out NZ's COVID-19 response, says elimination strategy 'absurd' with Delta

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hitting out at New Zealand's COVID-19 response, saying following an elimination strategy with the Delta variant is absurd. 

Morrison's criticism comes as Australia struggles to contain multiple outbreaks with many states in lockdown including, The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria. 

As a result he is facing increasing opposition from state premiers over the country's roadmap back to pre-pandemic life. Under the plan lockdown and restrictions would ease once 70 and 80 percent of the eligible population over 16 is vaccinated despite high case numbers. 

Speaking to 9News on Tuesday Morrison said the plan is based on the best "science and economic research in the world". 

He went on to criticise New Zealand's roadmap back to pre-pandemic life.

"Any state and territory that thinks that somehow they can protect themselves from COVID with the Delta strain forever, that's just absurd.

"New Zealand can't do that. They were following an elimination strategy. They're in lockdown. The way through is to get to those 70 percent and 80 percent marks (for vaccination) and open safely."

Morrison said when vaccination rates are at 70 or 80 percent COVID-19 can be managed like any other infectious disease. 

"We don't shut the country down because of the flu, we don't do that. We don't do it for other infectious diseases... You can manage this with some baseline element, common-sense measures so you can treat it like the flu and that's where we want to get - that's what living with COVID-19 is."

New Zealand has taken a different roadmap to reopening. This month Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern released the Government's four-phase plan to reconnect New Zealand to the rest of the world over the next six months.

Phase one focuses on lockdowns and restrictions as the primary method of controlling COVID while key demographics such as border workers get vaccinated. 

In phase two lockdowns and restrictions are still the main method of controlling the virus but there is an emphasis on vaccines with the rollout getting underway for the general population. 

Phase three sees the introduction of border pathways - low, medium and high risk. Along with higher levels of vaccination and while lockdowns are possible they aren't the main tool. 

Phase four sees restrictions reduced further.