Government set to revamp COVID-19 alert levels with new 'traffic light' system

The Government is preparing a massive carrot stick approach for the hospitality and events sector. 

It's planning a revamped alert level system for life after lockdown. Bars and restaurants will be given a choice: either be a vaccine-only venue or you'll have a customer limit.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited Hastings and Gisborne on Friday as part of her local COVID-19 vaccination drive across the country. 

"Every single vaccine counts - every single one," Ardern said as locals pulled up to receive their jab. "That vaccine has just been the highlight of my day."

Every single one added up to a lot on Thursday. Ardern was clearly stoked when she got the numbers in. 

"Oh, good news... 82,000," she said, as the locals cheered. 

"If you want to travel in the future, if you want to go to large-scale events, if you want to look after your whānau and young people and children, get vaccinated," Ardern said. 

And as those vaccine numbers track up, the Government is looking at how life looks after lockdown. The alert level system is in for a revamp. 

"You would definitely not want to remove alert levels 3 and 4 as they are now," says Otago University Professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist. 

But here's the traffic light with no level 3 or 4 insight. 

Newshub understands Green Light or "Prepare" will be a lot like level 1. No masks would be required, there would be some mandatory scanning, and vaccine certificates at large events. It would be used when there's isolated local transmission.

The Orange Light or "Reduce" has light restrictions, such as capacity limits in retail stores and workplaces, hospitality, events, and churches are given a choice: become a vaccine only venue and carry on with no restrictions or have restricted numbers and revert to spaced out seating. 

That gets triggered if there are limited active clusters in more than one area. 

Red light or "Restrict" would see limited gatherings, potential inter-regional travel restrictions and hospitality businesses would only be open to vaccinated people who'd be separated inside. 

That's when there's multiple clusters in multiple regions and the health system is under threat.

"I'm actually mystified now as to what we're actually doing," Prof Baker says. 

After the Prime Minister's messy Monday step-change announcement for Auckland, Prof Baker says the Government needs to clearly communicate its strategy and that ditching alert levels will cause confusion. 

"I think this is a week we'd all rather forget in terms of New Zealand's COVID-19 response because I think it's been a disaster," Prof Baker says. 

"But I think it can be recovered quite quickly."