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Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s suggestion that a zero Covid approach is ‘absurd’ has infuriated New Zealanders and fuelled their determination to eliminate the highly-infectious Delta variant.
Mr Morrison likened an elimination strategy to living in a cave on Tuesday.
"Any state and territory that thinks that somehow they can protect themselves from Covid with the Delta strain forever, that's just absurd," he told 9 News.
"COVID is a new different world - we need to get out there and live in it. We can't stay in the cave, and we can get out of it safely.
"New Zealand can't do that. They were following an elimination strategy. They're in lockdown. The way through is to get to those 70 per cent and 80 per cent marks [for vaccination] and open safely.
While his comments didn’t faze New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who told Coast FM her government’s decisions are not based on the opinions of other nations — they did anger her fellow colleagues and Kiwis.
Ms Ardern's deputy Grant Robertson hit back at the Australian PM's comments.
"I just don't see it the way that Scott Morrison and others are presenting it," he told Kiwi radio station Newstalk ZB.
"Certainly every public health expert I speak to says that what we're doing right now is exactly the right strategy for New Zealand."
PM slammed on social media
Hundreds have also taken to social media to condemn Mr Morrison’s defeatist assessment, re-igniting a long-standing rivalry with our Trans-Tasman neighbours.
"I would like to personally thank Scott Morrison for ensuring 100 percent of Aotearoa now wants to smash Covid again, just to spite his Covid-loving ass," one person wrote on Twitter.
“We will do it for us but also just to prove you wrong,” another said.
“I refuse to take advice on not "living in a cave" from a PM who's apparently living under a rock,” Tweeted another.
While some urged Mr Morrison to show some more respect to Australia’s allies, with one person posting:
“Here's an idea Scomo, just say 'good luck to our ANZAC mates'. That's not hard.”
Others cheekily pointed to the All Blacks’ recent win against the Wallabies.
“57-22, and we can smash Covid-19 Delta too,” wrote a Twitter user.
Even some Aussies sided with New Zealand.
“Please, please do it. We here in NSW would love nothing more than for you to rub his face in it,” wrote one person.
NZ Delta outbreak hits new peak
It comes as New Zealand’s Covid cases surged by 62 on Wednesday, bringing the total Delta outbreak cases to 210.
Auckland remains the epicentre of the outbreak with one new case in Wellington.
Despite the growing infections, New Zealand’s leaders insist their goal is still elimination.
"While this is steady growth, it is not exponential," Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.
It’s hoped the lockdown restrictions, which came into force last Wednesday, will soon start to be reflected in the daily case numbers.
"We'll begin to see a slowing of those numbers," Dr Bloomfield said.
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