Covid-19 has provided us with many challenges over the past 20 months, and it’s been an arduous fight against the virus.
After such a long time we can sometimes forget why we need to do all of this, but it is undeniable that our approach to Covid-19 has served us well in protecting lives and livelihoods. New Zealand has had the lowest number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths in the OECD and our economy is in good shape. Many countries that lifted restrictions are now putting them back in place as they face fourth and fifth waves of the virus.
On Monday this week, the UK sadly recorded more than 50,000 cases and 44 deaths in just one day, which starkly highlights that opening up and easing restrictions must be done in a careful way that is focused on keeping people safe.
Now we have taken the next step in our plan to safely reopen by moving into the Covid-19 Protection Framework. Delta is here, and it is time to change our strategy. As a country we have incredibly high vaccination rates, which have allowed the easing of restrictions in a way that is careful while still being focused on keeping people safe.
I would like to congratulate the people of Tauranga and the Western Bay of Plenty region; we have done exceptionally well with our vaccination rates, which are now more than 90 per cent for the first dose. We are on track to have 90 per cent of our residents double-vaxxed by the end of the year. There is still more work to do, so please get your first and second vaccination as soon as you can. The more people we have vaccinated the better our protection is.
I would just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their efforts this year in keeping us safe and protected - the Bay of Plenty District Health Board, our teams of vaccinators and testers and the team of staff at our local Pathlab, who are working around the clock to process Covid tests. It has been a huge effort by everyone.
And to those of you who have had your vaccinations, thank you.
I hope everyone has a restful and enjoyable Christmas and New Year with family and friends enjoying the freedoms that we have earned.