City braces itself for virus

Keeping the family safe are parents Baljinder Singh (left) and Gurpreet Kaur with their children...
Keeping the family safe are parents Baljinder Singh (left) and Gurpreet Kaur with their children Japkirat Kaur (5, left) and Manmeet Kaur (7). PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
Dunedin is in the Red traffic light setting for the first time, access to public venues is restricted and large events have been cancelled.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the whole country would move to the top traffic light level in response to Omicron cases in the North and South Islands.

"Our strategy is to slow the spread of Omicron down," Ms Ardern said during an unscheduled press conference on Sunday.

"This includes boosters and public health measures such as mask-wearing and restrictions on gatherings, while keeping the pressure off our health system to protect those most at risk of getting sick."

Shortly after the announcement, organisers of major Dunedin events announced their cancellations.

Many events, such as the New Zealand Masters Games and the city’s Chinese New Year celebrations, are unable to go ahead in Red due to restrictions on gatherings and events.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins said the city was well-prepared to again fight Covid-19.

"As a city, we’re in a better position than we have been to cope, with high vaccination rates helping to protect vulnerable people," Mr Hawkins said.

He reminded people the Red setting was not a lockdown, there were no travel restrictions and businesses and schools could open.

Moana Pool, public libraries, Toitu Otago Settlers Museum and the Dunedin Public Art Gallery would also remain open, with vaccine passes required.

However, a level of disruption was inevitable for some council services as Omicron spread and more people became sick over the coming weeks and months, he said.

Council chief executive Sandy Graham said council staff were no different from anyone else, and the council would have to adapt as more people became sick.

"We are asking for everyone’s understanding and patience as we work through this together," Ms Graham said.

"Whatever happens over that time, our delivery of key services to the community will continue."

Ms Ardern announced some changes to mask-wearing protocols on Tuesday, which will take effect in seven days.

Face coverings had to be "an actual mask" rather than a scarf, bandana or T-shirt, she said.

"This is to ensure that it is a mask designed to cover your nose and mouth properly."

Masks must be worn in food and drink businesses, close-proximity businesses, and events and gatherings.

Exceptions still applied when people were eating, drinking or exercising.

Motorists line up at Te Kaika’s Covid-19 drive-through vaccination and testing centre in Victoria...
Motorists line up at Te Kaika’s Covid-19 drive-through vaccination and testing centre in Victoria Rd on Monday afternoon. PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON
All workers legally mandated to be vaccinated are now required to wear a medical-grade mask.

In the education sector, schools return for the start of term 1 between Monday and February 8.

Pupils in year 4 and above are required to wear face coverings when indoors, in close contact with others, or on Ministry of Education-funded school transport services and public transport.

Teachers and staff should also wear face coverings in these classes.

Only vaccinated students, staff and visitors will be able to access University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic premises.

What does Red mean?

General settings:

 - Record keeping/scanning required

 - Face coverings mandatory in some places (e.g. on flights, public transport, taxis, retail, education (Year 4 and up, including tertiary), public facilities) and encouraged elsewhere

 - Public facilities (e.g. libraries, museums, public pools) – open with capacity limits based on 1m distancing

 - Retail (e.g. shops, banks, outdoor markets, takeaway only businesses) – open with capacity limits based on 1m distancing

 - Education (schools & ECE) – open with public health measures in place

 - Workplaces – working from home may be appropriate for some staff

 - Accommodation (e.g. hotels, cabins, backpackers) - open

With My Vaccine Pass, the following restrictions apply:

 - Hospitality (e.g. cafes, restaurants, bars) – up to 100 people, based on 1m distancing, seated and separated

 - Gatherings at your home – up to 100 people

 - Other gatherings (e.g. weddings, tangihanga, faith based services, marae, social sports) – up to 100 people, based on 1m distancing

 - Gyms – up to 100 people, based on 1m distancing

 - Events (e.g. cinemas, concerts, auctions, sporting events) – up to 100 people based on 1m distancing, seated and separated for service of food and drink

 - Close-proximity businesses (e.g. hairdressers, beauty salons) – public health requirements in place

 - Outdoor community gatherings (e.g. a community fair) - up to 100 people, based on 1m distancing

 - Tertiary education – open onsite with capacity limits based on 1m distancing

If My Vaccine Pass is not used, the following restrictions apply:

 - Hospitality (e.g. cafes, restaurants, bars) – contactless only

 - Gatherings at your home – up to 25 people

 - Other gatherings (e.g. weddings, tangihanga, faith based services, marae, social sports) – up to 25 people, based on 1m distancing

 - Close-proximity businesses (e.g. hairdressers, beauty salons), events (e.g. concerts, sporting events) and gyms are not able to operate

 - Tertiary education – alternative learning options only

 - Outdoor community gatherings (with uncontrolled access, e.g. a public parade) - up to 25 people, based on 1m distancing Source: covid19.govt.nz

jessica.wilson@thestar.co.nz

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