Auckland and other areas where there have been Covid-19 Delta cases will move from red to orange in the government’s Traffic Light Covid control system on December 30 at 11.59pm, allowing the city to move closer to normal life.
But Northland will stay at red because of its low vaccination rate until at least mid-January. Northland is 4000 jabs short of getting to the 90% first dose target.
Northland is at 81% double vaccinated based on Ministry of Health statistics compared to the overall country rate of 89%, although these figures have been disputed by health researchers as undercounting the Māori population by 74,000.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the cabinet had decided to do that “with cautious optimism” partly because the country’s eligible population vaccinations had reached 47,500 short of achieving 90% being fully vaccinated.
The other areas moving to orange are Taūpo, Rotorua Lakes, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpoitiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whangaui, Ruapehu Districts.
January 17 next review
Ardern said delaying Northland’s move gave extra time for the vaccination rate to rise.
“It is right to be cautious.”
The next full review of the Traffic Light System would be held on January 17, she said.
Ardern also announced that people who needed to get a negative test in the 72 hours before crossing the border could have an antigen test at a chemist, with a result produced after only 15 minutes.
She said the government was looking at the new variant, Omicron cautiously and decisions on the re-opening of New Zealand's international border will be reviewed when there is more information on the Omicron variant in early January. The cabinet would then reconsider its plan to open up the country's borders against the spread of the new variant.
New Zealand was one of the countries that had done the least in response to Omicron so far, she said.
Winter is coming
Countries that had removed vaccine passports such as Denmark had recently reinforced them because of Omicron.
"We do see those who have moved away have then gone back to them," she said.
Health director-general Dr Ashley Bloomfield said his technical advisory group is looking at this tomorrow. He said Pfizer’s reassurance that the third booster of its vaccine would work well against Omicron was helpful.
“Our aim is for the country to go into winter next year with most of the country with full immunity. We encourage people to get the third dose.
“Winter is the first problem as we are seeing in Europe.”