New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today announced an easing of COVID-19 alert measures in Auckland that will allow residents of the country’s largest city to travel beyond its borders from December 15 s ‘they are vaccinated or have a negative test.
The lifting of the Auckland cordon will allow Christmas travel, by which time the whole country will be switched to the less restrictive “traffic light” system.
Ending weeks of speculation over how to handle the busy Christmas season after promising months of lockdown restrictions would end for the summer, Prime Minister Ardern announced ‘this could be our toughest time yet. day … while I know that there will be some who will think that our movements (are) too fast, others too slow, I have no doubt that this is the best plan to keep us as safe and free as possible, to move us safely to a new way of dealing with COVID. “
The city, home to a third of New Zealand’s five million people, is on track to reach 90% of its eligible population fully vaccinated.
From December 15, fully vaccinated people will be able to cross the Auckland border freely. Unvaccinated people will only be able to leave Auckland if they receive a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before departure, but there will be no similar restriction for unvaccinated people entering Auckland.
Police will conduct “random spot checks” to enforce this rule.
Proof of vaccination will be via “My Vaccine Pass”, details of how they worked were only announced late yesterday.
Available to more than 3.4 million fully vaccinated New Zealanders, the passes can be downloaded to a mobile device or printed.
They can then be used to attend hospitality venues, retail establishments, community and sporting events, religious gatherings and other functions. Immunization status is not required in supermarkets, pharmacies, health services and other essential establishments.
Prime Minister Ardern’s decision to move the entire country into the traffic light system “soon after” on November 29 means his government has effectively abandoned its goal of achieving 90% immunization in every district health board. before making the change.
In the “red” frame, venues, public facilities, events, and other close-contact businesses will be able to open with assembly limits of 100 people, if the facility uses the vaccine certification system and excludes them. unvaccinated people.
Homework will be encouraged and schools and preschools will remain open.
Under the “orange” setting, there will be no limit on assembly at reception venues, public facilities and other venues and events if the vaccine certification system is used.
If the certification system is not used, close contact businesses, gyms and other events will not be able to take place, hospitality venues will have to operate with contactless transactions, and gatherings such as weddings will be limited to 50 people.
Prime Minister Ardern said the country should enter the new vaccination framework with caution, noting that “for a vaccinated individual, they will notice very little difference between green and these other levels – orange in particular – if you are vaccinated. , you can do most, if not all, of the things you typically enjoy.
For the Auckland border, travelers will be screened for their vaccination certificate or negative COVID-19 test when checking in at the airport. Air New Zealand said the same restrictions would be imposed on domestic flights elsewhere in the country from mid-December.
Police will fine any rule breaker of $ 1,000 while working with iwi on the North Auckland border “to ensure people can move around but also to give the people of Northland confidence in the controls in place “.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) said the announcement of the easing of Auckland’s border restrictions ahead of Christmas is the first glimmer at the end of a long dark tunnel for tourism operators both in the city and throughout. the country.
Commenting that the easing will be a huge relief for accommodation providers, transport operators, tourism businesses, attractions and retailers who have suffered the loss of their largest domestic market, TIA Managing Director Chris Roberts , said “It’s also fantastic that family and friends across New Zealand will be able to come together over Christmas and New Years – as long as they are double vaccinated.”
“The impact on Auckland businesses of the lockdown is brutal and obvious. But it also drained tourism and travel across New Zealand.
“As our largest population center, Auckland has a huge influence on domestic travel across the country. The immediate and dramatic reduction in the number of visitors to Queenstown when Auckland’s borders closed is just one example.
Roberts noted that Auckland tourism operators, after three months of closure, will also be ready to welcome fully vaccinated visitors to the area, as well as residents of Auckland.
The tourism industry is now eagerly awaiting decisions on easing New Zealand’s international border restrictions, which Prime Minister Ardern said would be announced “in due course”.
Roberts warned that “the world is opening up and New Zealand risks being ignored and left out if we don’t signal to international markets very soon when safe travelers are welcome to our shores.”
Images: Auckland by night (top, credit: CINZ), the My Vaccine Pass (middle) and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (bottom).
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