Elimination is defined as the absence of sustained endemic community transmission in a country or geographic area. Sporadic cases may still occur, but they can be quickly snuffed out.

No country has yet successfully eliminated COVID-19, though some have come close.

Through extremely strict border controls and social distancing measures, New Zealand achieved zero locally acquired cases for three months.

But New Zealand’s location means it is better able to seal itself off, and even there, a new outbreak caused by imported cases in August forced the country back into lockdown.

“Is it worth it?” asked Simon Thornley, an epidemiologist at the University of Auckland who has argued against an elimination strategy. “To me it’s a resounding no.”