South Island to begin traffic light system at Orange

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed yesterday the entire South Island would begin the new Covid-19 management ‘‘traffic light’’ system on December 3 at Orange.

The Cabinet will review the traffic light settings on December 13, but not again until January 17, then continuing on a fortnightly basis.

No region would move to the least-restrictive Green classification before at least January 17, Ms Ardern said at a briefing yesterday afternoon.

She defended that timeline, saying it was important the South Island operated cautiously, especially as summer travel would result in people moving throughout the country.

The South Island was ‘‘doing everything right’’ but the country as a whole was going through a transition period and it had to be done safely, she said.

Ms Ardern was joined at the briefing by director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

She said New Zealand was now in the ‘‘strongest position to move forward’’ to the new system, which would replace the ‘‘sudden lockdowns and restrictions of alert levels’’.

Under the traffic light system, which comes into effect at 11.59pm on Thursday, there would be no new restrictions on travel between regions, other than the existing Auckland boundary, which was expected to lift on January 17.

The Auckland boundary would still open on December 15 to those who were fully vaccinated or had received a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of their departure.

It was expected that those measures at Auckland’s border might be eased on January 17.

Ms Ardern said that at every colour setting, there were three key things to remember - have your vaccine pass with you, wear a mask, and scan in wherever you go.

‘‘At Orange, the big change here for parts of the country which will enter into this setting is that for the vaccinated and where vaccine passes are used, there are no gathering limits.

‘‘People can gather again safely.

‘‘At Red, it will feel a lot like Level 2. Your vaccine pass lets you go everywhere but number limits of 100 will apply to most activities.’’

She said the policing of the vaccine passes would be about ‘‘supporting compliance at venues, [to] ensure that they’re able to operate the vaccine pass safely’’.

‘‘It won’t be operating at borders.’’

Act New Zealand leader David Seymour said there was little logic in the designations announced by Ms Ardern, and that the South Island should have been placed in Green right away.

‘‘None of it makes any sense. As usual, the Government is just making it up as it goes along.

‘‘What we need are clear rules of the game. What we need is logic and clarity.’’

- Additional reporting RNZ