Rest homes still waiting for guidance on how traffic light system will affect them

With the traffic light system just 10 days away, rest homes and retirement villages are still waiting for guidance about what it means for them.

Many families in Auckland have been separated from elderly loved ones since August and want to know when they'll be allowed to reunite.

Christmas is a busy time of year for the aged care sector, but how it will be celebrated in the new traffic light system is not very clear.

"There's some confusion as to is that going to change and at what level will that change," Age Concern Auckland CEO Kevin Lamb says.

While tens of thousands of families will cross Auckland's boundary after so long in lockdown, others hope to reunite in rest homes and retirement villages.

"There is that real sense of concern about how safe is it going to be to allow people to be able to come back in visiting," Lamb says.

There's no official guidance yet on what happens when Auckland moves into 'red' on the traffic light system.

Some big operators like Ryman Healthcare are raring to go.

"In red we will be opening up," chief operations officer Cheyne Chalmers says.

It'll use vaccine passes, masks and other safety measures in all traffic light settings.

"Should COVID come into our care centre or our retirement villages, we know we've got good COVID safe practises," Chalmers says.

The Aged Care Association says it's just days away from sending out advice. But the body for retirement villages wants to see the public health order.

"There's a huge pressure from family members to be able to see their relatives and we absolutely understand that which is why we're keen to see clarity from the Government as soon as we can," Retirement Villages Association executive director John Collyns says.

"Villages with an aged care facility may impose a slightly stricter regime than the villages without one because obviously if you've got an aged care facility, you've got more vulnerable people living there."

One question on many members' minds is will vaccination be mandatory for village visitors?

"Certainly we've been asked regularly for that advice," Collyns says.

Whatever that advice is most Aucklanders will be enjoying extra freedoms. The city is at 96 percent first dose - 91 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

It's welcome news to those looking after our most vulnerable.