Low vaccinated regions to face Auckland-style 'red' restrictions under new COVID-19 traffic light framework

The newest of our new normals is just around the corner. 

The Government will turn on the 'traffic light' system across the entire country next month - no matter how vaccinated we are. But if your region is under-vaccinated, you'll face Auckland-style 'red light' restrictions. 

Letting Aucklanders loose put a real dampener on the day of some people in Dunedin, with Newshub being told it's "a bit risky" and they're "not keen on them coming down to the South Island". 

"I reckon it's a bad idea," one local said. 

But Aucklanders are coming and so is a whole new system. But the good people of the south haven't the foggiest what the traffic light system even is.

People in Dunedin Newshub spoke to described it as "a wee bit hard to navigate", while others said they "don't really understand it that much". 

"I've heard of it - don't entirely understand it," a local said. 

Here it is in a nutshell: 'Green' or 'prepare' will be a lot like alert level 1. 'Orange' or 'reduce' will see venues have capacity limits and restrictions for non-vaccinated people. 'Red' or 'restrict' will be similar to level 3 to deal with major outbreaks.

The lights go on at the beginning of December across the whole country. That's right - 90 percent vaccination rate or not, it's full speed ahead. 

"We are in a new phase in our fight against COVID-19," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday, after announcing that the Auckland border will be dropped on December 15. 

"No area will step into this framework at 'green'," Ardern said. 

Even in Dunedin where there's been no COVID-19 since May 2020 - more than 500 days ago - it will be 'orange' first.

"As we step in, you will see us be cautious and conservative," Ardern said. 

Auckland will move to 'red'. Anywhere outside the outbreak area with more than 90 percent vaccination rates will go to 'orange'. If a region's vaccination rate is too low - places like Northland and Tairawhiti - they'll be a red light district, too. 

"Vaccination levels will really in the future be part of our consideration for when you see different regions move into different levels of the system," Ardern said. 

National leader Judith Collins isn't optimistic.

"The Government has yet again not delivered any certainty other than the certainty of chaos." 

Once the summer break ends, that becomes all the more important, because come January 17 there'll be no vaccine or test requirements to leave Auckland. 

"Delta is here, and we have changed our strategy," Ardern said. 

It took a while to get here because while we were prepped for Delta to arrive, the Government never had a plan for it sticking around.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield admitted to Parliament's Health Select Committee on Wednesday that the only plan was zero - our elimination strategy. 

"We were ready for an outbreak response, which is what we had done with a significant surge, people in quarantine - and then going back down to an elimination approach again, and we've had to switch that."

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi is concerned because only 62 percent of Māori are fully vaccinated. 

"The arrogance of this Government and its health officials has meant that Māori are now at the back of the queue."

Otago University Professor Michael Baker, an epidemiologist, says there should have been a plan for groups with low vaccination. 

"We didn't plan for, and I think this was a real problem, is that we needed other strategies to deal with transmission in marginalised groups," he told Newshub.