Heading away for Christmas? Here are the COVID restrictions for each region

Take a second to have a check before heading off on the road.
Take a second to have a check before heading off on the road. Photo credit: Getty Images.

When thinking of Christmas, it's likely the colours green and red will pop up in your mind. The traditional colours of the December 25 holiday have an interesting history, linking to the holly of winter solstice celebrations and the colouring of Coca-Cola advertisements.

But this Christmas in New Zealand, Kiwis will probably be thinking in orange and red instead.

Gone are the days of alert levels, steps and roadmaps. Now, the country's health restrictions are drawn with the COVID Protection Framework (CPF), or traffic light system.

While the framework lays out three levels - red, orange and green - no part of New Zealand will be at green for Christmas (or anytime soon).

So, as you head away to the bach or to the grandies for Christmas lunch, take a second to check what colour the region you're heading to is in, and the restrictions attached. No levels will change until 11:59pm on December 30, when the entire country goes orange apart from Northland.

Red Christmas

The parts of New Zealand in red for Christmas are: Northland, Auckland, Taupō and Rotorua, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu.

At red, restrictions apply differently depending on whether a venue is using the vaccine passport system or not.

Hospitality can open to 100 people (based on 1m distancing with patrons being seated and separated) if the pass is in play, but can only be contactless if it is not being used. 

Indoor Christmas parties, or any type of gathering at home, are allowed with vaccine passes up to 100 people. Without the certificate being used, it drops down to a maximum of 25 people.

The same limits are applied to other gatherings, such as weddings, tangihanga, places of worship, social sports, and maraes. 

If you fancy heading into the gym for a quick run on the treadmill before stuffing your stomach with Christmas lunch, take note that gyms in red can only have 100 people inside if they are using the vaccine pass. Otherwise, gyms can't operate.

That's also the way for "close-proximity businesses" not using the vaccine pass.

Larger events, both indoors and outdoors, such as concerts as well as outdoor gatherings can take place with up to 100 people present if the vaccine pass is used. 

Any outdoor gatherings without vaccine passes being in play can only have up to 25 people if 1m distancing is ensured.

In general, people at red should remember to keep a record of where they have been and scan in as well as following face-covering rules, such as in stores and on public transport. 

Orange Christmas

The rest of New Zealand will be in orange for Christmas. That includes the entire South Island.

At orange, there is still a split between those using vaccine passes and those not. However, the critical difference is that limits on people on attendance increase.

So for hospitality, gatherings at home, other gatherings (weddings, funerals, etc.), large events, outdoor community gatherings, gyms and close proximity businesses, if the vaccine certificate is being used, there are no limits at all.

It's a different story if the pass is not in play. 

Hospitality remains only contactless while gatherings can have up to 50 people. Close proximity businesses are still also not allowed to operate.