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New traffic light Covid framework revealed

New Zealand will have a new traffic light Covid framework, largely modelled around if a person is vaccinated, scrapping the Alert Level system. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Source: Getty

It comes with a vaccination target of 90% fully vaccinated people for every District Health Board (DHB), Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced. 

"Now we have vaccines, we cannot ask vaccinated people to stay home for ever, so now we need a new playbook to reflect a population protected from Covid."

She said when every DHB reaches the target, New Zealand can move into the new Covid-19 Protection Framework. However, Auckland will move once its DHBs hit the target, and the South Island will also be considered early on November 29.  

The new framework comes with three levels: green, orange and red.

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Jacinda Ardern outlines the new strategy to help control the spread of coronavirus. Source: 1 NEWS

Green – For when there is Covid across New Zealand, but limited community transmission and the health system is ready to respond. 

Record keeping will still be required, no limits on capacity if vaccine certificates are in use. If not, most venues and events will have a 100 person limit, with staff to wear face coverings and distance in retail. 

Orange - Increasing community transmission with increasing pressure on health system and increasing risk to at risk populations.

Masks will be mandatory on public transport and most indoor venues, distancing of 1m required, while workplaces and education venues are open with health measures in place. 

No limits for hospitality, events and gatherings if vaccination certificates in use. If not, hospitality must be contactless one, gatherings such as weddings and tangi limited to 50 people if able to distance, and places like gyms and events not able to operate. 

Red - Action needed to protect health system – system facing unsustainable number of hospitalisations.

Record keeping and masks required, public facilities limited to 100 people, retail open with distancing and working from home encouraged. 

With vaccination certificates, hospitality, gatherings, events and gyms can have 100 person limits. 

If it is not in use, hospitality is contactless only, gatherings are at a 10 person limit and events and gyms cannot operate. 

Ardern said vaccinated people and most businesses using vaccine certificates, excluding retail where customers can distance, will be able to operate normally under the framework. 

The factors for considering shifting between levels were vaccination coverage; capacity of the health system, testing, contact tracing, and Covid transmission.

Localised lockdowns will still be used, and vaccine certificates will be in use regularly. 

"Vaccine certificates will provide greater freedoms at each level, and there will be extra public health precautions built in at higher levels to minimise the impact of Covid-19 and suppress the spread of the virus," Ardern said. 

"If you are not vaccinated, there will be everyday things you will miss out on," Ardern said. 

"The new Covid-19 Protection Framework sets a pathway forward that rewards the rapidly growing number of vaccinated New Zealanders with more freedoms to go about their lives safely," Ardern said.

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Ardern sets Covid-19 target of 90% fully vaccinated to ease restrictions

Ardern said Delta had made it hard to maintain the elimination strategy, despite restrictions. 

She said the vaccine was the new tool that could be used "as we gradually and carefully open up". 

"Our plan will do things differently…our plan is to minimise and protect."

The Alert Level system had been in place since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, first announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern when she made a special address to the nation days before the first nationwide lockdown. 

Earlier this month Ardern said vaccine certificates would be in use this summer to allow large-scale events to go ahead.

They would be proof of full vaccination status, showing the person posed less risk.