October 25, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a 90 percent vaccination target to move the nation from its current four level alert system, which is based on lockdowns and progressively harsher restrictions, to a new traffic light system which grants more freedom to the fully vaccinated and to businesses which chose to be only welcome fully vaccinated patrons.

The Prime Minister also confirmed that Auckland would move into the most restricted level of the traffic light system – red – once its three District Health Board areas reached 90 percent vaccination, although it will remain cut off from the rest of the country by its hard regional border, which is in place to stop the current outbreak from spreading.

“To everyone in Auckland: our businesses, people on their own, families with young children—everyone—I know this period has been so hard. But you are so close. Right now, you are just 16,000 vaccines away from every DHB hitting the 90 percent target for first doses. When that turns into double doses, that’s when this new framework kicks in for you. And I know that vaccination certificates will help us get those numbers up,” she said.

No date has been set for Auckland’s emergence from lockdown, with the three DHBs currently sitting at between 73 percent and 80 percent full vaccination. Auckland is expected to reach its 90 percent threshold before the rest of the nation, with the South Island expected to move into the new traffic light system as one, once 90 percent vaccination has been reached across the island.

At the red level, only 100 fully vaccinated people will be allowed to attend events operating with vaccine certificates. No unvaccinated events will be allowed.

Under the orange and green levels vaccinated events will be permitted to proceed with no capacity limits. Only at the green level will unvaccinated events be able to take place, with a limit of 100 attendees.

Which of the three coloured levels a region operate at will depend on the level of COVID-19 infection in the community and the level of community transmission.

During Friday’s press conference, Ardern flagged that the middle orange level is based on a 1.09 R number – which represents an outbreak that is only growing marginally – roughly translating to every 10 people infected infecting less than 11 more.

The chief executive of New Zealand’s major industry association, Business Events Industry Aotearoa, Lisa Hopkins, wrote to members on Friday saying the association had hoped for a hard date to be provided for Auckland to emerge from its lockdown.

“We had hoped for a definitive date of opening for Aucklanders, which would have delivered on the confidence and certainty we had asked for from Government.

“Instead, we are reliant on the those who may be hesitant or anti, to seek the information they need to make an informed decision. It makes the next six weeks very anxious for all,” she wrote.

“Let’s hope the incentives offered by the PM drive the behaviour needed. As an industry that knows all about incentives, I would suggest there is a lot more required.”

On Friday, the Government also announced a doubling of the current Resurgence payment for businesses in Auckland to sustain them as the country’s largest city remained in lockdown as vaccination numbers rise.