Vaccinated New Zealanders will regain everyday freedoms when the country moves to a new simplified COVID-19 Protection Framework that doesn’t rely on nationwide lockdowns as the main measure to stop the virus spreading.
In a suite of announcements that establish a pathway out of restrictions the Government is also providing up to $940 million per fortnight to support businesses through the challenging period, particularly those in Auckland. $120 million is also being provided to accelerate Māori vaccination rates in the coming weeks.
“Our current alert level framework and elimination strategy kept us safe and the economy functioning while we vaccinated but now as more Kiwis are protected by the vaccine we need a new plan to that moves away from lockdowns as our primary defence against the virus,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
“The new COVID-19 Protection Framework sets a pathway forward that rewards the rapidly growing number of vaccinated New Zealanders with more freedoms to go about their lives safely.
“The simplified framework has three levels: green, orange and red. Vaccine certificates will provide greater freedoms at each level, and there will be extra public health precautions built in at higher levels to minimise the impact of COVID-19 and suppress the spread of the virus,” Jacinda Ardern said.
The new traffic light framework will allow businesses previously considered high-risk to fully open to vaccinated customers at green and orange and continue to operate with some restrictions at red. Businesses that choose to open to the unvaccinated will face restrictions in order to suppress the virus amongst those most likely to have it.
“Fully vaccinated people will be able to reconnect with family and friends, go to bars and restaurants and do the things they love with greater certainty and confidence. The framework also provides businesses greater certainty to plan and grow,” Jacinda Ardern said.
“If you are still unvaccinated, not only will you be more at risk of catching COVID-19, but many of the freedoms others enjoy will be out of reach. No-one wants that to happen but we need to minimise the threat of the virus, which is now mainly spreading amongst unvaccinated people.
“These new requirements are a strong incentive for those who still haven’t had their first dose to do so quickly. The choice is clear for anyone who wants to go to a bar, restaurant, gym or to attend gatherings.
“The framework maintains the ability to move up levels when needed to control an outbreak, but is more flexible than the current alert level system.
“That is because there is clear evidence the virus finds it harder to spread in vaccinated environments which is why businesses that provide services only to vaccinated people can operate at every level of the new framework and without any restrictions at green and orange.
“Testing, contact tracing and isolation will continue as key tools to minimise any spread of the virus. And localised lockdowns will still be an option if we see a rapid growth in cases in areas with high levels of unvaccinated people.
“A target of 90 percent fully vaccinated across each DHB region has been set as the milestone to trigger moving the country into the new system. This target ensures good regional spread across the country and will also help address equity issues within each region.
“Modelling shows having 90 percent of eligible people fully vaccinated provides a high level of coverage, keeping most New Zealanders safe and helping slow and control outbreaks, assisting public health authorities to do their job.
“Auckland will be able to move sooner. This plan provides a clear path for Auckland to move out of lockdown as soon as 90 percent fully vaccinated is reached in each of the city’s three DHBs.
“Ultimately we have balanced the desire to re-open quickly while continuing to keep people safe. This plan is unique to New Zealand and rewards New Zealanders who have chosen to be vaccinated, while also giving us the flexibility to step up our response if needed.
“High vaccination rates is also an important step to allow us to reconnect New Zealanders to the world.
“As we move through the most challenging part of the vaccination campaign this is the clearest incentive we can offer to people to get vaccinated. If you want to do the things you love then you need to get vaccinated.
“If you haven’t booked a first dose – do it today. It’s how we win our freedoms and do the things we love doing. It’s our ticket to summer,” Jacinda Ardern said.