Covid-19 Delta: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reveals NZ moves to new traffic light settings on Friday

Covid-19 Delta: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reveals NZ moves to new traffic light settings on Friday

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed the country will shift into the new traffic light system on Friday.

Ardern says the long-awaited traffic light decision follows a successful domestic pandemic response.

She said recent months were perhaps the toughest New Zealand had experienced in the whole pandemic.

“The past three months have been hard though.”

The new traffic light system would give greater certainty to business.

It was not a case of abandoning strict measures to combat Covid-19, but would build on past experience.

The announcement comes as the Delta outbreak continues to spread slowly but steadily across the country, with 182 new cases today. There are now 93 people in hospital – up 11 from yesterday – and 10 in ICU.

Cabinet met today to confirm if the country will move to the new Covid protection traffic light system from 11.59pm Thursday, as signalled by Ardern a week ago.

Ardern held a press conference, alongside Deputy PM Grant Robertson and director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, to reveal the decision.

Ardern addressed the Omicron variant. She said New Zealand did not have the new variant but it was a reminder why strong, ongoing pandemic responses were needed.

Some countries have had to stand up borders or reopen quarantine facilities.

“We are not powerless tough,” she said.

Omicron had not changed advice on boosters.

“We’re especially keen to see our border and health workers receiving this additional protection.”

Ardern has already stated no regions will be moving into the green setting, and Auckland, still the centre of the outbreak, will go straight to red.

The Government’s decision comes as a new variant of Covid-19 gets closer to our doorstep – after confirmation that the potentially more infectious Omicron strain of the virus has reached Australia overnight.

Ardern told Three’s AM Show this morning that it was too early to say what changes officials here may need to make in response to Omicron – particularly as New Zealand gets set to open its borders to Kiwi citizens and residents in Australia in mid-January.

Officials could respond “very quickly” at the border if need be, she said, and she acknowledged that travellers were still required to go through the managed isolation and quarantine system on arrival.

She said the Government needs more information before saying whether the move to allow travellers from Australia to skip MIQ and isolate at home from mid-January would change.

“We need to be prepared for it either to be possibly more severe, possibly more mild. We just don’t know yet.”

She said they would not be cancelling Christmas and had no reason to do that.

In the next few months, they had 20 people due to return from the high-risk region, but Ardern was not sure if they fit the new category to return now.

All cases were treated with absolute caution and anyone who was positive would go into the quarantine facilities.

Under all traffic light settings, events, restaurants, bars, gyms and hairdressers are expected to be able to remain open.

That is, provided they use a vaccine pass to ensure only vaccinated people are using their services.

Only under the red setting do events and gyms become limited as they have to restrict the number of people in attendance to 100 or fewer, while hairdressers also have to maintain stricter public health measures.

For those not using vaccine passes close-proximity businesses – such as hairdressers – are not able to operate. In gatherings allowed numbers are limited 25.

Earlier the Ministry of Health reported new cases were in Northland, Auckland and Waikato.

There was also a new case in the Nelson-Marlborough region, however that would be added into tomorrow’s cases as it was confirmed after today’s 9am deadline.

There are 167 cases in Auckland, 10 in Waikato and five cases in Northland.

There are 93 people in hospitals including 10 in ICU or HDU. Of the 93 cases in hospitals, an increase of 11 on yesterday, 17 are in North Shore, 33 in Middlemore, 37 in Auckland, four in Waikato and one in Rotorua.

Covid-19 Delta: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reveals NZ moves to new traffic light settings on Friday

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