COVID-19: The new 'simplified' traffic light rules on crowd sizes, mask-use, QR code scanning coming into effect Friday night

In just a matter of hours, large outdoor sporting events will be back, there'll be no requirement for businesses to display QR codes and hospitality venues will be able to host larger gatherings.

The Government's sweeping changes to the traffic light system come into effect at 11:59pm on Friday night, loosening the rules for Kiwis as we prepare to begin our descent down from the Omicron peak. 

With high rates of vaccination and cases soon expected to start declining, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday announced a raft of adjustments to the traffic light system.

"We have simplified the COVID-19 Protection Framework to target restrictions at those activities that reduce transmission the most."

At red, there will no longer be any gathering limits in outdoor spaces. That means outdoor concerts and sporting events can return with large crowds.

There are also changes indoors. From Friday night, the gathering limit will double from 100 people indoors to 200 people. Ardern on Wednesday said transmission in the likes of hospitality is "relatively low", but close contact remains a "higher risk". 

"You do increase the likelihood of cases for each increase in numbers that you have," the Prime Minister said. "But the analysis we have from our public health team is that 200 represents an increase that will not mean a material impact on our health system or our hospitalisations, but we do know for those hospitality operators, it will have a material impact."

One thing to remember, however, is that while vaccine passes are on their way out, they still need to be used until 11:59pm on April 4. That means anyone wanting to attend one of the larger gatherings from Friday will need to show a pass until they are dropped. If an event isn't using the passes, the gathering limits are unchanged.

Masks don't need to be worn at outdoor events, but are still required in many indoor settings. 

While you'll need to remember to take your mask if you're heading into the shops, don't worry if you forget to scan in. Requirements to scan in and for businesses to display QR codes or have a form of record-keeping will be gone on Friday night as well.

New Zealand is not yet at the orange level - the next review date for the traffic light system is April 4 - but when we do get there, there will be no limits on either indoor or outdoor gatherings. Face masks still aren't necessary outdoors, but other mask rules remain. QR code scanning remains unnecessary. 

"Now is the right time to review the restrictions we have in place, with the Omicron outbreak nearing its peak," the COVID-19 website states

"A number of the tools that we developed to fight COVID-19 were designed to protect an unvaccinated population from earlier variants of the virus.

"Our focus now is to make life simpler and closer to normal, but retain the things that we know are most effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting people."

While the Government says these new rules represent a simplified traffic light system, the National Party reckons it's an "intellectual complication that we don't really need".

Leader Christopher Luxon believes the framework should be done away with, just leaving a few simple rules around masking and crowd limits instead.