The final remnants of New Zealand's COVID-19 response restrictions are going to be removed, the Health Minister has announced.
The last measures will end on Tuesday, about three-and-a-half years after COVID-19 first emerged globally and New Zealand began introducing restrictions to limit its spread, keep people healthy, and avoid deaths.
At the moment, anyone who is infected with COVID-19 has to isolate for seven days. Household contacts are exempt from isolation rules, but are recommended to take a rapid antigen test each day for five days and limit contact with the person who has tested positive.
There also continues to be a requirement for people to wear a mask in certain healthcare facilities, like hospitals.
Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall confirmed the seven-day mandatory isolation and mask rules would be removed from 12:01am on Tuesday, August 15.
She said fluctuations in cases from week to week are expected, but overall COVID-19 case rates, wastewater levels and hospitalisations have been trending downwards since the beginning of June and over the past month reported COVID-19 cases have hit their lowest levels since February 2022.
More than 5000 cases have been reported in the last week as well as 20 deaths.
Dr Verrall said public health officials have advised the risk from COVID-19 "is now considered low compared to other stages of the pandemic and it's safe to remove the final requirements".
She said COVID has put less pressure on the health system this winter and other illnesses have been better planned for and managed.
"This, paired with the population's immunity levels, means Cabinet and I am advised we're positioned to safely remove the remaining COVID-19 requirements," Dr Verrall said.
"We've only reached this point thanks to the hard work and care New Zealanders have taken over the course of the pandemic.
"And while not mandated, the Ministry of Health guidance is to stay at home for five days if you're unwell or have tested positive for COVID-19," she said.
She said mask wearing was still important to preventing the spread of respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19, in health and disability care settings.
"COVID-19 changed the world. It was an unknown to virtually all of us. I appreciate from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South the efforts Kiwis took to keep themselves and their community safe," Dr Verrall said.
Last September, then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced 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.