A major milestone for New Zealand: The COVID-19 elimination strategy is dead

The elimination strategy is dead - RIP, you've served us well.

Monday marked a major milestone for New Zealand - the start of our transition to fighting to control the virus using vaccines and other public health measures rather than lockdowns. 

In theory, alert level 4 is no more.

"In the future, as we've said, our goal is to move to a highly vaccinated population so that we don't have to use blanket level 3 and 4 restrictions in the way that we have to date," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at her press conference. 

"Now, it is within our sights to achieve those high vaccination rates. We just need the help of every New Zealander. 

"In the meantime, we are in a transition. We are not ready to remove the really strong approach that we have taken to COVID-19. We will continue with that. We will test, we will trace, we will isolate, and we need everyone's help with the restrictions to continue with that focus."

So with high vaccination - which the Government is aiming to lock in over the next couple of months - we'll have to start learning to live with the virus and the sad realities that come with it - cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

Next week the Government will reveal its new Delta alert level system, moving us away from elimination to the new control strategy, and key to it will be those vaccination rates.

"Tomorrow I'll set out our plan for the final stages of our vaccination campaign and activities to drive our numbers up even higher," Ardern said. 

More than 2 million people have now received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far, representing 48 percent of people aged 12 and over.

"Vaccines will mean that in the future we can do things differently and that change is within our sights. But even then our strategy remains that while cases will continue, we want to control the virus, stamp out cases, and prevent hospitalisations," Ardern said. 

"But with vaccines, we have more options on how we do that. But that does mean that we need you to be vaccinated."

Expect a mega vaccination drive from the Government, complete with carrots and some whopping great sticks.