Moving forward in our COVID response

Over the past two years, Kiwis have pulled together and pulled out all the stops to protect each other from COVID-19. Our response has saved lives and given us a head start on our economic recovery. Thanks to the hard work of New Zealanders, we’re now able to ease restrictions and move into a new way of managing the pandemic.

The changes that come into force from this Friday will simplify the traffic light settings, while ensuring our most vulnerable remain protected.

So far, our strong health response has been the strongest economic response, too. We’ve had the lowest death rate in the OECD for two years running, and our relatively low debt, record low unemployment, and historic investments in education and infrastructure are helping to accelerate our economic recovery.

Everyone has been safer because of our successful response, but it hasn’t always been easy. Now, a range of factors – including our high vaccination rates, the rise of the Omicron variant, new data, and the state of our outbreak – mean we’re able to safely evolve our approach.

We know COVID is here to stay: we can’t change that, but we can change how we manage it. In doing so, we’ll ensure we keep the right tools at hand to protect the vulnerable and our health system, while also opening up more opportunities for businesses and people.

The incoming changes to the traffic light system include:

  • From 11:59pm on Friday 25 March, capacity limits and mask requirements will be removed for outdoor events at the Red setting. Indoor capacity limits will increase from 100 to 200 people.
  • At Orange, there will be additional mask requirements for workers at indoor events.
  • The requirement to scan in using the COVID Tracer App will be removed.
  • From 11:59pm on Monday 4 April, requirements for vaccine passes will end, and all vaccine mandates will be removed, except those covering health and disability, aged care, corrections, and border workforces.

With our cases coming down, it’s time to take these next steps with confidence in the collective immunity and protections we've built up.

These new settings will mean that Kiwis can head along to sports games and concerts, and that restaurants and cafes can welcome more customers. While supporting greater economic activity and getting everyone closer to feeling a bit more normal, they’ll also continue managing COVID and providing protection and care for those who need it most.

Masks remain a really important part of this framework, because we know just how important they are for minimising transmission and keeping people safe. Vaccination, too, remains central to the strength and stability of our recovery. If you’re not yet vaccinated or boosted, please do that now: every vaccination adds an extra layer of protection to our COVID defences.

Since the start of the pandemic, putting people’s health first has proved to be good for all New Zealanders – and for our economy. We’re facing global challenges right now, but we’re well-placed to meet them, together.

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