COVID: Decision to end vaccine mandates 'could be' within weeks to a couple of months - Chris Hipkins

The Government has received advice on when COVID-19 vaccine mandates could end but it will largely depend on when New Zealand's Omicron outbreak starts to wane, Chris Hipkins says.

On Friday, the High Court quashed an "unlawful" COVID vaccine mandate for police and Defence Force staff - with the judge saying it was an unjustified limit of rights. 

"If you look at the court case from last week - the advice that we've had back from the police already is that, actually, the mandate has served its purpose and they don't think they're going to need another one," said Hipkins, the COVID-19 Response Minister.

"Defence, on the other hand, has indicated that they do think they'll need to do something because when they deploy internationally, and particularly to the Pacific, they often require people to be vaccinated before they can be deployed so it's more complicated for them," Hipkins told AM.

He said the Government was keeping all other mandates and COVID restrictions that remain in place under "regular review".

Asked if the Government was working to a date to end mandates for other industries, Hipkins said: "It really varies by [the] workforce. If you look at our health workers, for example, they're likely to be in this and dealing with this for some time so there's a strong case there for that to be in place for longer."

The main purpose of the vaccine mandates was to help reduce the impact of the virus that's killed more than 5.9 million people and infected nearly 438 million around the world.

But the mandates were introduced in response to the Delta variant. Double vaccination isn't as effective against Omicron as it was Delta and previous strains, which is why the Government is pushing ahead with its booster jab rollout - which provides 90 percent protection against hospitalisation from Omicron, studies have shown.  

Research has also shown that Omicron, while more transmissible, appears to result in less severe disease than the Delta variant. 

Hipkins on Wednesday said while mandates for critical health care workers may remain in place for longer, the Government could move sooner to scrap them for other industries.

"Ultimately, that's going to be dictated by the public health considerations - by making sure we're dealing with COVID-19 - not what's happening out the front here today," he said, referring to the police operation in front of Parliament - where officers are working to "restore access" to Parliament grounds after nearly a month of anti-mandate protests.

"One of the challenges that we're grappling with, of course, is… the peak that we're dealing with and currently climbing towards - we don't know what that peak is going to be and we don't know how long that's going to last but if you look at international experience some countries peaked quite quickly and then came down from their peak quite quickly."

Modelling of when New Zealand's peak could start to wane are "guesses as much as anything else", Hipkins said.

"The range in them is anything from a couple of weeks to a couple of months so it just wouldn't be meaningful," said Hipkins, adding a decision "could be" made within that timeframe.

ACT Party leader David Seymour has called for mandates to be scrapped while National's Christopher Luxon has asked for a clear timeline for when they might end.