Wellington, 22 October 2021 (dpa/MIA) — New Zealand on Friday announced a new roadmap that will see coronavirus measures eased for the fully vaccinated after 90 percent of the population get their two coronavirus jabs.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was initially resistant to setting a vaccination target.
“We didn’t want anyone to be left behind,” she said.
However, she said once 90 percent of the eligible population of each health board region was fully vaccinated, New Zealand would transition from seeking to eliminate covid-19 cases entirely to a “minimize and protect” strategy.
“Delta has made it very hard to maintain our elimination strategy. Its tentacles have reached into our communities and made it hard to shake,” she said.
She said a “traffic light” system based on case numbers and how the health system copes would operate after the vaccination target was hit, allowing businesses previously considered high-risk to fully open to vaccinated customers at green and orange and continue to operate with some restrictions at red.
Business will be able to choose to open to the unvaccinated, but if they do they will continue to face some restrictions in order to suppress the virus among those most likely to have it, Ardern said.
Currently, businesses under covid-19 restrictions can only operate in a non-contact way, and there are limits on gatherings such as funerals and weddings.
Ardern said the new plan would see New Zealand moving forward in a safe way, but said it would mean the country would see more coronavirus cases in the community than it has before.
Under the plan, New Zealand would be one of the few countries with high levels of vaccination that still uses public health measures to “keep everyone as safe as we can, while still enjoying the things we miss and love,” Ardern said.
“And it’s all because of vaccines. Vaccinations are our armor. They help keep us safe,” she said.
About 68 per cent of New Zealand residents are fully vaccinated.
High vaccination rates are also an important step to allow New Zealanders to reconnect with the world, she said.
“As we move through the most challenging part of the vaccination campaign this is the clearest incentive we can offer to people to get vaccinated. If you want to do the things you love then you need to get vaccinated,” she said.
“If you haven’t booked a first dose – do it today. It’s how we win our freedoms and do the things we love doing. It’s our ticket to summer,” Ardern said.
With a population of 5 million, New Zealand has reported almost 5,000 cases of covid-19 and 28 deaths since the onset of the pandemic.