COVID-19: A reminder of what the unvaccinated can and can't do this Christmas

  • 24/12/2021

New Zealand is more than 90 percent double-vaccinated, with just one in every 10 eligible Kiwis under different restrictions than everyone else.

While those with vaccine passes are able to enjoy more privileges, things are a little less exciting for those who haven't a second jab.

So what can the unvaccinated get up to this Christmas? What are the rules, do they change between orange and red areas, and should we be checking vaccine passes at our family Christmas lunch?

We take a look.

What traffic light is my region in at Christmas?

These regions are under the Red setting for Christmas: Northland, Auckland, Taupō, Rotorua Lakes, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu.

These regions are under the Orange setting for Christmas: The Waikato region, Hauraki, Thames-Coromandel, Waitomo, Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatū, Horowhenua, Tararua, Wairarapa, the Kāpiti Coast and the Wellington and Hutt regions – and the entire South Island.

From 11:59 pm on Thursday, December 30, the following regions will move to Orange: Auckland, Taupō, Rotorua Lakes, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu. Northland will remain at Red.

My region is in red for Christmas - what can the unvaccinated do?

Public and private gatherings

In the Red setting, gatherings and socialising can go ahead, whether it be at home, in church or on the sports field. However, restrictions remain in place and My Vaccine Passes are still largely required. 

Visiting family, friends and whanau over Christmas is permitted. Public and private gatherings can go ahead, with and without My Vaccine Passes, but restrictions do apply.

Under Red, you can catch up with friends and whanau, enjoy get-togethers and parties at your home, attend faith-based gatherings, such as church services, and go to club functions, street parades, fairs and free public concerts outdoors, among other gatherings. 

If a gathering chooses to enforce My Vaccine Passes, only people with the passes - those who are fully vaccinated - are allowed to be there, including any staff. With My Vaccine Passes, up to 100 people can attend a gathering at a home, private dwelling or venue. The limit applies to both indoor and outdoor venues. 

If a host chooses not to enforce My Vaccine Passes - meaning unvaccinated guests are able to attend - a maximum of only 25 can attend. This limit applies to gatherings at homes, private dwellings and hired venues, based on 1-metre physical distancing in a single defined space at the venue at any time. The limit includes children, but not staff, and applies to both indoor and outdoor venues. People with and without My Vaccine Passes are able to attend.

The verdict: If you're unvaccinated, you can attend a gathering of up to 25 people this Christmas - as long as guests are not required to present My Vaccine Passes, or proof of vaccination status.

Visiting friends and whanau

You can visit friends and whānau at their homes, and invite them to yours, at every setting of the system. 

You can visit friends and whānau who live in social or community housing. Tenants in social and community housing should check with their landlord about any requirements for visitors and which shared facilities are open. You can also visit friends and whānau in a rest home or aged care facility, but there may be restrictions. Some facilities may only allow fully vaccinated people to visit, so check with the aged care or rest home before you visit. You must wear a face covering when visiting an aged care facility.

You can visit friends and whānau in hospital or healthcare facilities, however, each facility may have their own requirements to keep their staff and patients safe. This could include restricting the number of daily visitors, or only allowing fully vaccinated people to visit, so check with the healthcare provider beforehand. You must wear a face covering when visiting hospitals and other healthcare facilities. 

Unvaccinated people cannot visit friends and whānau in prison over Christmas. As of December 9, people must have a My Vaccine Pass in order to visit people in prison.


Events can go ahead at Red, but only if people are presenting their My Vaccine Passes upon entry. Events cannot go ahead if the organiser is not requiring attendees to present their My Vaccine Passes.

The term 'events' also extends to controlled-access events - anything requiring ticketing, registration, etc, at a commercial or private venue. All controlled-access events - including cinemas, theatres, stadiums and concert venues - must require attendees to present My Vaccine Passes in order to operate.

The verdict: Unvaccinated people cannot attend events over the Christmas period.

Public facilities

Public facilities, such as zoos, museums, swimming pools and recreation centers, can open at Red with restrictions. There is no limit on how many people can be inside a public facility at a given time, with capacity limits based on 1-metre distancing. Public facilities may operate with My Vaccine Pass requirements, however that is at the discretion of the owners. If they do require My Vaccine Passes, you will need to show the document to enter the facility. Some may be operating without the passes and will allow unvaccinated people on the premises if you wish to visit a museum or go swimming over the Christmas period.


Unvaccinated people cannot dine at cafes or restaurants or visit bars or nightclubs under Red. Hospitality venues can only serve fully vaccinated people with My Vaccine Passes on their premises. 

If a hospitality business chooses not to require customers to present My Vaccine Passes, it can only open for takeaway services and should follow the same rules outlined for retail businesses. 

The verdict: Unvaccinated people will not be able to dine or drink on-site at a hospitality venue over the Christmas period, but they can pick up takeaway food. 


Unvaccinated people are able to shop at retail outlets over the Christmas period. Shops and retailers, including outdoor markets and banks, can open at Red with capacity limits based on 1-metre distancing.

Retailers can choose to impose My Vaccine Pass requirements. This means some shops might require all customers to be fully vaccinated, but others might not. Staff can require customers to show their My Vaccine Passes before entering the premises. Close-proximity businesses can open at Red, but only with My Vaccine Pass requirements. 

The verdict: Unvaccinated people can go shopping, but close-proximity businesses, such as barbers, hairdressers, salons and massage therapists, cannot open if they choose not to require My Vaccine Passes - meaning the unvaccinated cannot enter these premises. 

Travel and accommodation

You can travel around New Zealand in Red, but there are temporary restrictions in place to enter Northland and leave Auckland. Between December 15 and January 17, you can travel in and out of Auckland for any reason, but you must follow some restrictions. When leaving Auckland, no matter how long you have been inside the regional boundary, you must either be fully vaccinated or have evidence of a negative test, taken no more than 72 hours before crossing the border. Free rapid antigen tests are available at selected pharmacies from December 15 to January 31 for people who are unvaccinated, aged over 12 years, three months, and do not have symptoms of the virus.

Police-led checkpoints are operating for northbound travellers entering Northland from Auckland. You will need to show your My Vaccine Pass or a negative test taken no more than 72 hours before crossing the boundary in order to enter Northland. You do not need to follow these requirements if you are transiting through Auckland without stopping - for example, travelling directly from Hamilton to Northland. The checkpoints are stationed at State Highway 1 at Uretiti and State Highway 12 near Maungaturoto. The checkpoints will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Accommodation can open at Red without restrictions or capacity limits. Hotels, motels, AirBnBs or other accommodation providers can choose whether or not to follow My Vaccine Pass requirements. They can require you to show your My Vaccine Pass to be at the accommodation, so it's worth finding out before you book. However, Department of Conservation huts and campsites do require all visitors to be fully vaccinated.

The verdict: Unvaccinated people can travel domestically, however they must have evidence of a negative test taken within 72 hours prior to departure. They can also stay in accommodation, however some providers may want guests to be fully vaccinated, so check beforehand.

My region is in Orange for Christmas - what can unvaccinated people do?

In the Orange setting, the rules are consistent with Red, except gatherings without My Vaccine Passes can host up to 50 people - at venues, this limit is based on 1-metre physical distancing in a single defined space at the venue at any time. The gatherings can still take place at homes, private dwellings or other venues.

Like in the Red setting, unvaccinated people in Orange regions cannot attend events, visit close-contact businesses, go to gyms or dine at cafes and restaurants. Hospitality venues still cannot serve unvaccinated people in Orange, unless they are ordering takeaway. The same measures apply for travel and accommodation.

My region is at red - should I be checking vaccine passes?

You can have up to 100 people at your house in red light areas - but only if everyone is using My Vaccine Pass. If you're not, you're only allowed as many as 25. 

So, does that mean you need to check everyone's passes if you've got 26 people over for Christmas lunch?

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that was correct.

"Yep, if you're in a red area and you want more than 25 people over, then that's when you do need to check that they've got vaccine passes," she told The Project.

"But 25 and under, no need to check."