Ardern Says Auckland Will Move to Easier Covid Rules at Year-End
(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand’s largest city will move to easier Covid restrictions at the end of the year, reflecting a declining trend in case numbers and rising vaccination levels.
Auckland will switch to orange in the nation’s Covid Protection Framework at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 30, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Monday in Wellington. The region has been at the most restrictive red level since Dec. 3, when the new “traffic-light system” was introduced.
“Ministers and the Ministry of Health were supportive of recognizing the progress that has been made, and will be made in the coming weeks,” Ardern told a news conference. “While there is good cause for optimism, we only moved into the new framework just 10 days ago, which doesn’t yet represent a full 14-day transmission cycle. With an additional transmission cycle there will be enough comfort for Auckland to move.”
The move to orange will lift gathering limits for Auckland hospitality and allow more close-contact activities such as dancing. People still require vaccine passes to enter most venues and events and must wear masks in most public facilities and shops.
Ardern imposed a strict lockdown on Auckland in mid-August to combat a community outbreak of the delta variant. The 107-day lockdown ended on Dec. 3 and a border around the city is due to lift on Dec. 15, allowing residents to visit other parts of the country as the summer vacation period approaches.
“It is encouraging to see Auckland’s case numbers continue to decline, giving cause for cautious optimism,” said Ardern. “The lower number of cases in Auckland is good news for all of us as it reduces the risk of the virus spreading outside Auckland once the boundary changes on Wednesday.”
With the exception of Northland, all regions in the upper and central North Island currently at the red setting will also move to orange at midnight on Dec. 30. All other parts of the country including capital city Wellington and the South Island will remain at orange. Ministers will next review levels on Jan 17.
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