Vaccine mandates and vaccine passports are set to be scrapped in New Zealand on April 4 for most industries and businesses, which will come as welcome news people who have been thrown out of work.
Also gone are QR codes and all restrictions on the size of outdoor gatherings.
Indoor gatherings have had their capacity doubled to 200 in a measure that is set to help struggling hospitality and function services recover.
New Zealand’s lingering health orders will now apply to a narrow range of industries. Vaccine mandates will now only apply to health and aged care workers, corrections staff, and borders staff. This means that those in education and defence will once again be allowed to work.
Michael Plank, a Covid modeller, explained the reasoning behind the government’s decision.
“Vaccines are still hugely effective at preventing severe illness, but less effective at stopping people catching and spreading the virus. We now have increasing levels of infection-acquired immunity in the population. This means that allowing unvaccinated people into places like cafes and bars doesn’t substantially alter the risk of catching Covid there.”
The announcement comes less than a week after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was grilled over her handling of the cost of living crisis which led to her slashing the Fuel Excise Tax and bringing in a range of money-saving measures for families.
Active Covid cases are sitting at an all-time high in the country, with 11 deaths announced. New Zealand will also remain on the ‘red setting’ of its Covid alert traffic light system.
“We’ve had more than 500,000 reported cases of Covid and expert modellers say there have probably been 1.7 million actual infections,” admitted Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday.
Jacinda Ardern’s decision has caused New Zealand to leap ahead of many Australian states when it comes to the freedom of citizens to work and engage with the economy while unvaccinated.
While the news is welcome, the New Zealand travel industry will have to wait a little longer, with the borders opening to Australia on April 12 and the US, Canada, and UK on May 1.
Adern has previously admitted that she was not in favour of vaccine mandates but found them necessary to lift vaccination rates to deal with the Omicron strain. The Prime Minister insists that her government’s rather sudden change of heart on the issue had nothing to do with the serious protests, but rather because it was ‘safe to do so’.
“This is not the end,” said Jacinda Ardern, “but in some ways, it is also a new beginning. Covid is still with us, and it will be for some time to come.”