PM Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson hit back after Australian PM Scott Morrison criticises NZ's COVID-19 elimination strategy

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern are defending New Zealand's COVID-19 strategy after the Australian Prime Minister called it 'absurd'. 

On Tuesday, Scott Morrison hit out at our response, telling 9News an elimination strategy is no longer practical with the Delta variant. 

"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. 

But the Deputy Prime Minister defended New Zealand's approach saying experts still believe elimination is the best strategy, coupled with high vaccination rates. 

Robertson told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking he will back elimination until experts advise otherwise. 

"All of the experts continue to tell us the best strategy that we can take at the moment is elimination," he told Hosking. 

"I just don't see it the way that Scott Morrison and others are presenting it and certainly every public health expert I speak to says that what we're doing right now is exactly the right strategy for New Zealand." 

Robertson said our elimination strategy has given us one of the strongest economic responses and lowest mortality rates in the world. 

The Prime Minister also defended our strategy, telling Coast FM she isn't "too fussed" by Morrison's comments. 

She said New Zealand has no plans to "live for lockdown forever" and is aiming to have high vaccination groups across all age groups.

New Zealand is currently battling an outbreak of Delta with 148 community cases reported in total. The country is in alert level four lockdown until at least next week.

But due to our strict restrictions New Zealand has had only 26 COVID related deaths to date compared to Australia's 984. 

Australia is also battling multiple community outbreaks with many states in lockdown restrictions including The Australian Capital Territory (ACT), New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria.