Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she stands by New Zealand's Covid-19 elimination strategy, but says that getting New Zealanders vaccinated is a way to avoid the "harshest" restrictions like lockdowns.
Ardern's comments come after Johns Hopkins University's Amesh Adalja on Monday told Breakfast he has never agreed with the approach adopted in New Zealand and in Australia, saying it's not sustainable with the virus likely to still be around in the next 10 to 20 years.
"At a time where you have rapid testing available, have vaccines available, this New Zealand approach is wrong," he said.
As well, Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa immunologist Professor Graham Le Gros also told Breakfast on Monday that New Zealanders "can't be in a state of paralysis forever" by being kept in lockdown.
"What those two specialists were talking about is actually a vaccinated world," Ardern said on Tuesday.
"What we've been saying is while we are vaccinating, elimination is our best strategy because we don't have a widely vaccinated population yet, and so we must vaccinate as a protection for ourselves and to replace what we've in the past used as lockdowns to try and protect ourselves.
"We used lockdowns because we didn't have vaccines, now we have those vaccines we need to use that tool, that's the way we can move away from some of the ones that have been harshest in our toolbox."
Ardern also defended the elimination strategy, though, saying it has worked well for New Zealand.
"Compared to other countries New Zealand has had 521 days where we have not had 'stay at home' orders, we've had 521 days where compared to the United States, compared to the UK, even compared to Australia we've had far fewer days where we've had to stay at home than all of those countries," she said.
"So it's worked well, but we constantly review what we do in the future and vaccines will also make us change what we do in the future."