Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tells COVID-19 unvaccinated 'we are still a team'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has a message for the unvaccinated: "We are still a team."

In her latest Facebook Live, Ardern took candid questions from the public about the Government's COVID-19 response, including how the unvaccinated won't have as many freedoms under the new 'traffic light' system. 

"William, you've just said for the unvaccinated, it's a worrying time. I think one of the things I wanted to say is that we have a duty to look after everyone - everyone in the country... Those who are vaccinated, those who are unvaccinated," Ardern said. 

"We are still a team, even though some parts of the team have taken different decisions from other parts of the team. 

"The COVID Protection Framework, what we've designed, helps everyone. It helps keep everyone safe. And whilst we will continue to advocate that everyone gets vaccinated, because it is the best protection we can provide, the framework is also designed to keep people who aren't vaccinated, safe as well. 

"So while it will be more limiting for the unvaccinated, it will also be safer."

Ardern said the COVID-19 vaccine is effective. 

"You only need to look in Auckland and how we have seen a plateauing in cases - the impact of the vaccine, you can see that here in New Zealand as you've been able to see it around the world," she told her 1.9 million followers. 

"And whilst some people have different opinions, I don't agree that we're a divided nation when we now have over 91 percent of New Zealanders with their first dose. 

"I think that actually speaks to people wanting to look after one another, regardless of whether some people might hold a different opinion."

But there are signs of division. Ardern was met with a group of about 30 anti-vaxx protesters during her visit to Hamilton on Tuesday, with signs saying "coercion is not consent" and "Make Ardern Go Away". 

It was a familiar scene. Earlier this month Ardern's press conference in Northland was cut short after a man continuously disrupted her, with claims about the vaccine not working. Ardern was also forced to cancel vaccine clinic visits in Whanganui, Hunterville and Gisborne.  

Frustration over COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates culminated in a march of approximately 2000 people from Wellington CBD to Parliament, with much of their anger evidently aimed at Ardern. 

Amid the protests, Ardern had a message for the vaccinated: "What we saw today wasn't reflective of you."

A few weeks later, Labour MP Kieran McAnulty was confronted by an anti-vaxxer who accused the Government of genocide, while COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins revealed his electorate office had been "the target of repeated and ongoing attacks". 

Ardern told reporters in Hamilton on Tuesday the new COVID Protection Framework, or 'traffic light' system coming into effect on Friday, is designed to keep unvaccinated people safe. 

"The traffic light system is about providing greater protection than we have now. By using vaccine passes, it makes sure that unvaccinated people aren't being put at risk in environments where it is harder to keep them safe and I'm confident we can do that."

Under the new framework, freedoms will be determined by vaccine certificates. At the most restrictive 'red' level, for example, hospitality businesses that agree to use vaccine certificates will be allowed to welcome up to 100 people, but hospitality businesses that opt out of checking passes must be contactless. 

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'. 

"What you'll find different is that for certain activities you'll have to have your vaccine pass with you and those activities are the things that generally in the past we've treated as high risk," Ardern said in her Facebook Live. 

"So where before if we went into high risk restrictions we might've shut those things down, we can now keep them open because we'll be able to use vaccine passes. 

"We're using them in what we call close personal services - places where it's hard to keep distance like hairdressers, beauty salons, and things like that. We'll use them for restaurants, cafes, bars, and we'll also use them for gatherings, so it's a way that we can allow gatherings to still happen rather than in the past where gatherings just had to stop."