Chris Hipkins celebrates 'significant milestone' as final COVID-19 restrictions removed

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins is celebrating the removal of New Zealand's final COVID-19 restrictions, saying he "longed" for this day during the depths of the pandemic.

The last restrictions axed were the seven-day mandatory isolation and mask rules in certain healthcare facilities, like hospitals. These will both be removed from 12:01am on Tuesday.

The last culling of restrictions happened in September last year when then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the COVID-19 Protection Framework - better known as the traffic light system - would come to an end that month. That brought an end to mask requirements in most setting other than in hospitals, GPs, and aged residential care facilities. Vaccine mandates also ended, as did vaccine requirements for travellers.

At his post-Cabinet press conference on Monday, Hipkins said while the removal of these final restrictions is a "significant milestone", it was important to note the hard work New Zealanders put in during the pandemic.

"There is absolutely no sugarcoating how difficult COVID-19 has been for New Zealand and for New Zealand families," he said. "Closing the border, lockdowns, the travel bubble with Australia, these things had an impact on people's lives and livelihoods and on people's wellbeing. Auckland in particular did the heavy lifting for the rest of the country."

He also acknowledged there'll be plenty of lessons to be learned from the Government's pandemic response. One of those was that the final lockdown in Auckland "went on for a long time" and more could've been done to ease the pressure for those in the city.

Hipkins further said the requirement for some people to be vaccinated to do some jobs was "very difficult" for some families.

"It did create more of a wedge in the community than I think any of us would've liked to have seen," he said. "But the high level of vaccination we were able to achieve was one of the main reasons that we didn't see that high mortality rate that we saw in other countries."

Watch the video above.