Covid-19 traffic light system scrapped from midnight
All mask wearing requirements except in healthcare and aged care will be scrapped, and household contacts will no longer need to isolate, the government has confirmed.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Covid-19 Response Ayesha Verrall this afternoon confirmed Cabinet's decision to scrap the Covid-19 Protection Framework - known as the "traffic light" system - and the majority of related public health restrictions.
They said the changes would include:
- Mask-wearing only required in healthcare and aged care: including hospitals, pharmacies, primary care, aged residential and disability-related residential care
- People who test positive for Covid-19 must still isolate for seven days, but household contacts no longer required to
- All government vaccine mandates to end on 26 September
- Removal of all vaccine requirements for incoming travellers and air crew
- Leave support payments to continue
- All New Zealanders over age 65, and Māori over age 50, to get automatic access to Covid-19 antiviral drugs if they test positive for Covid-19
- From Tuesday, case and hospitalisation number reporting becomes weekly, not daily
Ardern said it marked a milestone in New Zealand's response to the virus. She said people may still be asked to wear a mask in some places but it would be at the discretion of those managing the location, not a government requirement.
"For the first time in two years we can approach summer with the much needed certainty New Zealanders and business need, helping to drive greater economic activity critical to our economic recovery," she said.
She said there was no question the actions of New Zealanders had saved thousands of lives, but the risks were changing.
"The most recent health advice now tells us that with the lowest cases and hospitalisations since February, our population well vaccinated, and expanded access to anti-viral medicines, New Zealand is in a position to move forward."
Vaccination requirements would also be at the discretion of employers.
Dr Verrall announced another 40,000 courses of antiviral medication had also been purchased and would be freely available to older New Zealanders.
"Anyone over the age of 65, and Māori and Pacific people over the age of 50, or anyone who meets Pharmac requirements, can access the treatment in the early stages of contracting the virus," she said.
"This means more than double the number of New Zealanders will be able to access these medicines if they need them than previously."