‘It was incredibly tough’ – Ardern reflecting on the Delta outbreak

Source: 1News

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sits down with 1News political editor Jessica Mutch McKay, looking back at the Delta outbreak and how it changed the way the Government handled Covid.

Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern reflects on a mega political year, including the moment she learnt about the first Delta case that was discovered on August 17.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins pulled her aside at an event and said, "I've just got a call and we have a case".

"There's a point where you're advised there is a single case and we don't know where it's come from in an elimination strategy, that's an immediate cause for alarm," Ardern said.

"Which is why throughout the elimination strategy… we always had to move so quickly."

She remembered the case being described to her and thinking there was nothing that stood out that could link it to the border.

"Therefore, we just don't know how many people have been infected."

She said they still had a view "that it was possible to do what we've done before, but we'd never done it with Delta".

"We were going into the unknown, and overtime we saw it behaved differently, it moved more quickly, it infected more people, it was incredibly tough, and it reached into our community very, very quickly."

She wanted to be close to the operations team so being in Wellington "has always been the thing that makes the most sense".

On the way down to Wellington, she said people were observing, "trying to read what was happening".

Ardern spoke about the elimination strategy doing its job while there was no vaccine and no treatment, "but it also caused a lot of anxiety".

"Because people, when they heard there was a case would be on the edge. Am I going to have to cancel everything? Am I going to be at home for weeks on end. Are the kids going to be out of school again?"

"We're in a different way of managing the pandemic now that doesn't quite have that same anxiety that I know people experienced.

The Prime Minister said she did not regret not leaving Auckland at Level 4 longer at the beginning of the outbreak.

"I don’t for a moment believe there was any more that we could have done."

Ardern said when they moved Auckland from Level 4 to 3, "we were still striving for elimination, our view was that we just needed to be able to do it from a different level, which is how we'd done it every other time".

When asked what she would have done differently, Ardern said she was “sure there are things that we could have done to perhaps make that transition a little easier but of course they are all things I will reflect on, but we still finished where we needed to be”.

Watch the rest of the interviews in this series: Christopher Luxon, David Seymour, Marama Davidson and James Shaw, Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer