Vaccine mandates will be scrapped in an overhaul of the New Zealand government’s Covid powers.
Acting Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the government’s power to enforce gathering limits and lockdowns would also be removed.
Other Covid rules to be abandoned in coming weeks included the need for vaccine passes, QR code displays and Covid related border entry requirements.
“What were once justified and served our country well should now be removed. With these changes, the legal framework matches the risk,” Hipkins said.
The 7-day isolation period for Covid-19 cases will remain in place. Visitors to certain healthcare facilities will still be required to wear masks.
Hipkins said the changes were part of the government’s “move away from emergency arrangements to long-term management of the virus”.
“Now, we can manage the virus with tools such as widened availability of anti-virals, without having to resort to the most restrictive measures,” he said.
The need for travellers entering New Zealand to complete an online declaration will be removed on Thursday.
The easing of government powers comes despite a rise in Covid numbers, with 14,311 cases in the past week.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the rise in Covid cases was expected in the lead up to Christmas.
National leader Christopher Luxon has said New Zealand needs to “fundamentally ... move on” from Covid restrictions.
But Green Party spokesperson Teanau Tuiono criticised the decision to ease restrictions, arguing immunocompromised and disabled people would be endangered.
“Living with Covid could make inequalities even worse if we do not put the health of those most at risk at the centre of our response” Tuiono said.