Jacinda Ardern
© Robert Kitchin/Stuff
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shows the heat map of isolation Covid-19 contacts across New Zealand.
But lockdowns will remain until 90% of population is vaxxed.

New Zealand has announced it is dropping its controversial 'zero COVID' policy after numerous critics pointed out that such an approach to eliminating the virus was impossible.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement earlier today during a press conference in which she acknowledged, "The return to zero has been extremely difficult."

"What we have called a long tail has been more like a tentacle that has been difficult to shake," she added, noting that the delta variant of the virus forced a change in policy.

Critics had repeatedly asked how the country expected to maintain a 'zero COVID' policy given the emergence of new variants of the virus and decreasing efficacy of the initial round of vaccinations.

However, with 48% of the population fully vaccinated, no return to normal is expected anytime soon given that Ardern has said 90% will need to be fully vaxxed before the lockdowns will end.

Kiwis have faced continuous lockdown measures almost as brutal as their Aussie neighbors since the beginning of the pandemic.

As we highlighted in August, Ardern mimicked Australia's top public health official by telling citizens, "Don't talk to your neighbors," after the country went into full lockdown as a result of just a single COVID case being detected.

Authorities also previously announced that they would put all coronavirus infectees and their close family members in "quarantine facilities" even if they refuse.