November 23, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has abandoned the 90 percent vaccination threshold as the requirement to lift the lockdown in the nation’s biggest city which has been underway since mid-August.

Instead, the whole of New Zealand will move to the new COVID-19 Protection Framework – announced in late October – from 11.59pm December 2, with every part of the country entering the framework at the two more restricted levels – either orange or red. The framework represents a shift from relying on lockdowns to manage the pandemic to relying on vaccination.

Auckland will enter the framework at red, the most restricted level, which will allow face-to-face businesses to open to vaccinated customers, but place capacity limits on hospitality and events of 100 people.

Events involving unvaccinated stakeholders will not be permitted at the red level and gyms and “close contact businesses” like hairdressers, are not able to open with either unvaccinated staff or customers.

The New Zealand government cabinet will meet on November 29 to determine what level other parts of the country will enter the framework at, but Ardern said no region would enter at the lowest green level.

At the middle level, orange, there is no restrictions on capacity for events provided everyone is fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated events are not permitted at this level.

At the green level, unvaccinated people would be allowed to attend events of up to 100.

“The hard truth is that Delta is here and it is not going away, and while no country to date 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 vaccinate rate, and the in-built safety measures in the traffic light system, like the use of vaccine passes,” said Ardern at yesterday’s press conference.

Previously, the Prime Minister had laid out a target of 90 percent double dose vaccination coverage in each of Auckland’s three district health board regions to move the city into the new system. Almost a month on from setting that target, the three regions still have almost 40,000 vaccine doses to go before reaching that target.

No district health board in the whole of New Zealand has hit the 90 percent target yet.

It was originally intended that the South Island would move into the new traffic light system when it hit 90 percent full vaccination coverage, but it is also a way off from achieving this.

Ardern said setting a date for moving into the new system would give businesses the opportunity to plan.