COVID-19 Protection Framework 'traffic light' settings released for New Zealand

The levels at which different parts of New Zealand will move into the new COVID Protection Framework, or 'traffic light' system, have been released by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

Northland, Auckland, Taupō and Rotorua, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu will move into 'red', while the rest of the North Island will start at 'orange'. 

The entire South Island will move into 'orange'. 

The new traffic light system, which will replace the current alert levels, comes into force on Friday. Freedoms will be determined by vaccination status and gathering limits depending on which traffic light a region is at. 

For example, at 'red', hospitality venues that use vaccine certificates can open to up to 100 people, but hospitality businesses that choose not to check vaccination status will have to be contactless. 

At 'orange', there is no limit on the number of guests who can enter cafes, bars, takeaway shops, nightclubs and restaurants, if vaccine certificates are used. 

Businesses that choose not to check for vaccine passes must still operate contactlessly. Unvaccinated people can, however, hire venues where food and drink is provided and have up to 50 people attend under 'orange'. 

COVID-19 Protection Framework 'traffic light' settings released for New Zealand

It's not until 'green' that hospitality businesses that choose not to use vaccine certificates can open to 100 people, but the guests must be seated and separated. 

Vaccine verification cannot be asked for at dairies and convenience stores, petrol stations, pharmacies and supermarkets. 

"The certainty and stability of the traffic lights replaces the sudden lockdowns and restrictions of alert levels," Ardern said on Monday.

"Our schools will stay open at every colour and businesses will have protection through My Vaccine Passes to keep operating. 

"Other than the existing Auckland boundary, which lifts on January 17, there will be no new restrictions on travel between regions."

There are still 160,889 Kiwis due for a second dose of the vaccine. If they don't get it by Friday, they won't be afforded the freedoms of the traffic light system. 

"If everyone got it this week we would be at 89.3 percent fully vaccinated. I encourage those people to get their second dose today to benefit from the full protection of the vaccine, and to be able to get their vaccine pass," Ardern said. 

"The factors considered when setting the colours in each region include vaccination, the state of the health system, testing, contact tracing and case management capacity, as well as the rate and effect of COVID-19 transmission."

Cabinet will review settings and provide an update on December 13. The next update will be on January 17, and will continue on a fortnightly basis.

"We are not moving any regions to 'green' immediately while we continue to get vaccination rates up and transition the country to the new framework. To achieve this, $120 million continues to be distributed to support Māori communities to fast-track vaccination efforts and prepare for the traffic light system," Ardern said. 

"COVID-19 is still with us, and the emergence of the Omicron variant overseas is a reminder of why we need to maintain a careful approach and keep public health measures in place to protect us."