New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a new COVID-19 traffic light system that will subject the unvaccinated to more restrictions, and at the same time lift tough lockdown rules for the vaccinated, effective from Dec. 3.
The new rules will ease lockdown restrictions for Auckland, the most populated city in New Zealand, which has undergone tough lockdown measures for more than three months.
“As previously said, Auckland will enter at red. The settings for other regions will be based on factors like vaccination levels, but Cabinet has already confirmed that no region will start at green while we are transitioning and managing a current outbreak,” Ardern said.
A vaccinated person will still be required to wear masks on flights and in public transport, taxis, retail and public venues under the orange level.
Under the red level, gatherings and hospitality for the vaccinated can go ahead with limits on numbers.
However, unvaccinated individuals will be denied entry into events, restaurants, hairdressers, and cafes that use vaccine certificates.
Under orange or red level settings, hairdressers, events, gyms, and close-contact businesses that do not use vaccine passports will not be allowed to open at all; restaurants and cafes that do not use vaccine certificates will only be able to offer takeaway food; and gatherings and funerals will face lower caps on numbers.
Individuals granted a medical exemption from getting the vaccine will be able to enter venues without disclosing their vaccination status, however they will be required to apply for a temporary medical exemption through a health provider every six months.
Auckland is scheduled to undergo a trial starting Thursday whereby hairdressers and barbers in the city can open to vaccinated individuals to ensure a smooth transition next week. Ardern reportedly selected hairdressers and barbers because the seating arrangement allowed social distancing to be maintained.
That means all staff will be required to be vaccinated and only vaccinated customers will be allowed in.
The Cabinet will announce color levels for each region on Nov. 29, four days before the new measures are enforced.
In response to the recent announcement of vaccine mandates and related pandemic restrictions, protesters said the measures were “anti-freedom,” according to a Nov. 9 protest with a turnout of 3,000 demonstrators.
As of Nov. 22, more than 1.1 million New Zealanders have applied online for a digital vaccine passport to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination status.
The Labor-led government had previously rolled out vaccine mandates for border workers, prison staff, teachers and staff in the education sector, and employees in the health department.
New Zealand has among the lowest COVID-19 cases in the world with under 10,000 cases reported so far and 40 deaths. It reported 205 new cases on Nov. 22 and its total double-dose vaccination rate had reached 83 percent of its eligible population.