Saturday, May 18, 2024

Vaccine mandates to go, outdoor events back on

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo AP


·         From midnight this Friday, traffic light settings simplified

·         Changes to Red that will be effective from this weekend are:

·         Capacity limits removed for all outdoor events

·         Indoor capacity limits for the likes of bars and restaurants doubled from 100 to 200

·         Outdoor face mask requirements removed

·         All restrictions other than mask wearing requirements removed at Orange

·         Use of My Vaccine Pass and requirement to scan in ends on April 4

·         All vaccine mandates removed from April 4, except for health and disability, aged care, corrections and border workforces


PM: Post-peak plan a safe return to greater normality

New Zealand’s successful management of the Omicron outbreak and high rates of vaccination mean it’s now safe to ease the restrictions that have successfully prevented widespread health and economic damage, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced this morning.

She said the evidence shows NZ is coming off the Omicron peak with cases in Auckland having already declined significantly, and a decline expected nationally by early April.

“To date we’ve had more than 500,000 reported cases of Covid-19 and expert modellers say there have probably been 1.7 million actual infections. That figure, coupled with 95 per cent of New Zealanders being fully vaccinated, means we now have a high level of collective immunity,”Ardern said.

“New Zealanders have worked incredibly hard to get through this pandemic and as a result of those efforts we are now in a position to move forward and change the way we do things.

“First up we have simplified the Covid-19 Protection Framework to target restrictions at those activities that reduce transmission the most.

“From April 4, My Vaccine Pass will no longer be required by the Government meaning Kiwis will no longer have to be vaccinated in order to enter those venues covered by the Pass. Scanning in requirements for the vaccinated will also end.

“We recognise that some businesses, events or venues may still choose to use vaccine passes, so we will maintain the infrastructure for them.”

From April 4, vaccine mandates will be removed, except for health and disability, aged care, corrections and border workforces.

“Like many other countries, we are retaining a small number of mandates targeted at keeping our Covid-19 frontline staff safe and to ensure our most vulnerable, like those in aged care facilities or those with disabilities, are protected from the virus,” the Prime Minister said.

“I know for many this part of our defence against Covid-19 was one of the hardest. But mandates meant we reached the levels of vaccination needed to prevent the devastating outbreaks seen across the world.

“We’ve also used the evidence gathered over the last few months on Omicron to make changes to the Red and Orange settings.”

From midnight this Friday outdoor gathering limits will be lifted.

“We know being outdoors for gatherings is safe. We want to encourage that, especially at Red,”Ardern said.

“We also believe we can lift indoor gathering limits at Red with little material impact on hospitalisations, so these will double from 100 to 200.

“Orange settings remain broadly the same with no gathering limits but extra guidance on holding safe events and a new requirement for workers to wear masks at indoor events.

“And so, simply put, Red means indoor gathering limits and masks, Orange means masks, and Green means guidance. At all levels, the testing and isolation requirements remain as they are now.

“We are keeping the traffic light framework in order to offer ongoing protections in the event of a new variant or in cases of future surges, but our plan is to move down to Orange and then ultimately Green once it is safe to do so.

“Putting people’s health is the best economic approach. The hard work and sacrifices of New Zealanders delivered the lowest numbers of cases and deaths in the OECD for the last two years and puts us in the best position to recover strongly.

“With our cases coming down it’s time to take our next steps with confidence in the collective immunity and protections we have built up. These new settings support greater economic activity and get everyone closer to feeling a bit more normal, while also continuing to manage Covid-19 and provide protection and care for those who need it most.

“With our economy now larger than pre-Covid levels, record low levels of unemployment, and tourism about to reopen we are in a strong position to accelerate our recovery. Our Covid-19 restrictions have been tough, but they have delivered a strong foundation for us to move forward.”

Bishop: Good first steps but Govt must cede control

National welcomes today’s announcement that vaccine passes and scanning requirements will be abolished, outdoor gathering limits will be scrapped and some vaccine mandates will be phased out, says National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“The Government has finally caught up with reality, which is that Omicron has changed the game and the tools that worked against Delta are now putting unjustified limits on people’s lives and sowing division and discrimination.

“There is very little point in vaccine passes anymore and it’s good they’re finally being abolished.

“The end of the vaccine pass system does call into question the relevancy of the Government’s Traffic Light Framework, which has vaccine passes at its heart.

“The Government would be better to ditch the whole thing and create some simple rules around masks and perhaps venue limits, rather than persist with a complicated colour-code system that has never been used properly and that barely anyone understands.

“This smacks of a Government that is simply unwilling to cede control and let New Zealanders get on with things.

“While today’s mandate announcements are positive, the Government should also signal a timeline for abolishing the remaining mandates.

“Kiwis have done the right thing – 95 per cent of us are double vaccinated and over 70 per cent of the eligible population is boosted.

“After two tough years, it’s time to get back to normality and start thinking positively about the future.”

Seymour: We’ve done the mahi – it’s time for the treats

“No wonder we have a productivity problem when even the Prime Minister takes 22 minutes to deliver 2 minutes of information,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Jacinda seems to have a case of separation anxiety, she can’t let go of control. She keeps announcing and restricting while the economy slides into recession.

“Jacinda gave us 22-minute history of Covid in New Zealand, we all lived through it, we didn’t need to be patronised with a recap.

“A real leader would cut to the chase and then be open to scrutiny from journalists, not preach to us at length.

“The Prime Minister’s real problem is that she’s leaned into fear as a means of control for two years and doesn’t know how to shut down the fear factory. Having fed the fear she has to keep feeding the fear, so we keep nonsensical restrictions for another week for reasons of political theatre.

“We’ve done the mahi, but we have to wait for visitors to arrive to get the treats. Waiting until 5 April for vaccine passes and mandates to go makes no sense. They should go immediately.

“Mandates and passes have segregated some people from society. ACT says it’s time to move on, today. ACT has always said people should have been able to undergo regular testing as an alternative.

“A gathering limit of 200 with seating rules still in place will be little relief for the hospitality sector. This is just more control from Government.

“There are parts of the announcement we do welcome. Outdoor gathering limits don’t make sense. We’re pleased to see the back of them. QR codes also no longer make sense, they should go immediately, why are we waiting until the weekend?

“New Zealanders are fed up. It’s time to move on. The traffic light system should go. We don’t need small tweaks; we need real change. We need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The 22-minute speech that should have taken 2 minutes was not worth the wait.”

Covid-19 settings changes do not go far enough, the increasing capacity cap for venues a waste of time, says Hospitality NZ

The end to mandates for staff and vaccine passes for customers are welcomed by the hospitality and accommodation sectors but increasing the capacity cap for venues will make little difference for larger venues, says Hospitality New Zealand

“The Prime Minister says things have been ‘bloody hard’ – well, I can say this has been very bloody hard for hospitality and accommodation businesses.

“Moving the cap to 200 is a waste of time, because people still have to be seated. Why 200? It’s nonsensical.

“The cap should be pinned to the capacity of the venue. Lifting it will not work for bars and other night venues. The seated model does not work for them, even with a higher cap.

“These are businesses that have been disproportionately impacted through the whole two years of the pandemic.

“They are suffering reduced revenue while paying higher labour costs to police all this.

“Where is the additional support to help them carry that load?

“I have one member with multiple venues who says he’s scraping the bottom of the barrel and has nothing left to support his businesses. And I know he’s not the only one.

“Businesses are running out of patience.

“The removal of outdoor limits while having indoor seated limits is also nonsensical. You can play a game of rugby where players are all over each other, but when they go for a beer later, they have to be seated and spaced apart. How ridiculous is that?

“As the Prime Minister said today, the data speaks for itself and virus spread in hospitality is low. That’s exactly what we have been saying, so if that’s the case why are we staying in the Red setting?

“The planning for all this has been haphazard, to say the least.

“We’re opening to the world but we have these nonsensical solutions. Nothing is running concurrently or complimentary.  To have to wait until the 4th of April when every day counts for those in hospitality and accommodation is just going to be too late for some.

“And all the while hospitality businesses continue to be hammered.”

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