Government considers scrapping traffic light system, broader COVID-19 rules as cases drop

The Government will decide whether to scrap the traffic light system and broader COVID-19 rules on Monday. 

All of New Zealand is currently at the orange setting which means there are a few restrictions including mask mandates. 

If the country moved to the green setting, or scrapped the traffic lights altogether, there would no longer be any COVID-19 restrictions. 

Speaking with AM's Ryan Bridge on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said Cabinet will meet this afternoon to decide. 

Robertson said the COVID rules worked as they were supposed to and stopped hospitals getting overrun during winter. 

"I think what we want to do is what we said we would do which is get ourselves through winter and we've done very well… the hospital system came under a bit of strain but it did cope and our health professionals did an extraordinary job of getting us through that so now's the time to say, 'What does the system that is fit for today look like?'

"We've tweaked our system the whole way through to be proportionate to the situation we are in so we will work through the public health advice, we will work through the broader advice which includes economic advice and then we will come to our decision today."

Robertson also said the Government would consider the few remaining workplace vaccine mandates, including for healthcare workers. 

"We will be considering the issue of the few remaining workforce vaccination mandates that we do have. I would want to say the health workforce, along with the education workforce and others, were calling on us to bring in mandates at the time that we did. It was the right decision to bring those in… we now have to reassess where we are today," he said. 

The decision comes after a brutal winter that saw the perfect storm of a bad flu season, COVID-19 and severe staffing shortages put huge pressure on hospitals and emergency departments. 

But over the past few weeks, COVID-19 cases have been steadily dropping with just 981 new infections reported on Sunday. It was the first time daily cases dropped below 1000 since mid-February.