Last week, 2 December 2021 at 11:59pm, New Zealand replaced the Alert Level System with the new COVID-19 Protection Framework (Traffic Light System). This represents a marked change in the Government's COVID-19 policy response to date, by shifting to a system that introduces new freedoms for vaccinated New Zealanders. The Traffic Light System allows businesses to open and operate in a way that is close to normal for vaccinated people while minimising the virus’ spread.

The new framework is intended to give certainty and stability for people and businesses, reducing the need for widespread lockdowns. Unlike the Government's previous elimination strategy under the Alert Level System, the Traffic Light System aims to minimise the spread of COVID-19 and keep hospitalisations down, acknowledging that there will be community cases on an ongoing basis in some areas. This framework continues to use general public health measures such as contact tracing, case management, and testing, but also introduces protection measures based on vaccination status. It is clear that the Government is incentivising New Zealanders to get vaccinated by differentiating the freedoms afforded to those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated.

The requirements under the Traffic Light System are set out in the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Protection Framework) Order 2021 (Order) (available here). Auckland, Northland, and specified areas in the North Island are at the Red setting, while the rest of New Zealand is at the Orange setting. No area of New Zealand is currently at the Green setting, and this is expected to remain the case over the summer period.

From 15 December 2021, the boundary around Auckland and Port Waikato will ease. Between 15 December 2021 and 17 January 2022, travel will be permitted out of or into Auckland for any reason if individuals:  

  • are fully vaccinated and have a My Vaccine Pass; or
  • carry evidence of a negative COVID-19 test administered no more than 72 hours before crossing the boundary.