New Zealand is set to introduce a new “traffic light” system that will significantly ease restrictions for vaccinated people from December 3.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday that the entire country, including Auckland, will move into the new framework which will be based on vaccine certificates.
Ardern urged people to download the vaccine certificate, which will become critical for people to move around freely.
“Vaccine passes will operate in the traffic light system and if you aren’t vaccinated then you won’t be able to access a range of services,” Ardern said.
“The hard truth is that Delta is here and it is not going away. And while no country has been able to eliminate Delta completely once it’s arrived, New Zealand is better positioned than most to tackle it because of our high vaccination rate and the inbuilt safety measures in the traffic light system.”
The announcement has been highly anticipated, especially for Aucklanders who have been living under strict lockdown measures since August, after the first community case of the Delta variant was found.
New Zealand abandoned its ‘zero-Covid’ strategy in October, but kept its largest city Auckland under restrictions while vaccination rates lifted.
The government initially said it wanted 90% of the eligible population fully vaccinated before moving into the new system. The Ministry of Health has indicated it is on track to reach that target by early December.
Already 83% of New Zealand’s eligible population is fully vaccinated, while 91% have had their first dose, according to the ministry.
The government has issued vaccination mandates in some sectors for frontline health and education workers, which has led to protests in Auckland and Wellington.
Monday’s announcement comes as 205 community cases were recorded — the fourth highest daily case number since the start of the pandemic.