New Zealand ending pandemic curbs, adopting a system of living with virus

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New Zealand will ease COVID-19 measures and implement a new system for living with the virus next month, according to a Reuters report.

The country has seen one of the strictest lockdowns in the world and will move away from its “zero COVID” policy to allow businesses and vaccinated people more freedom, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday. 

The new policy will be implemented on Dec. 2 at 11:59 p.m., with Arden acknowledging that “delta is here and not going away.” 

“The hard truth is that delta is here and not going away, but New Zealand is well set to tackle it because of our high vaccination rates and our latest safety measures including the traffic light system and Vaccine Pass,” Ardern said according to Reuters.

New Zealand — which has vaccinated about 83 percent of its population — will have a new “traffic light” system based on vaccine passports.

The new three-tier traffic light system will rate regions in New Zealand based on red, yellow and green colors. 

Green has almost no virus controls, while red allows businesses to stay open but customers must be vaccinated and observe social distancing, according to Reuters.

“The key difference between the two systems is that vaccine passes will shortly be required at places like bars, gyms and restaurants,” Ardern said.

Auckland, which has been under strict restrictions for the last three months, will initially be categorized as red while health officials determine how to classify other areas. 

Auckland is currently closed off from the rest of New Zealand, and the report adds that this will change on Dec. 15.

New Zealand has recorded just 40 deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. Arden had previously announced the easing of restrictions once the country hit a 90 percent vaccination rate.

However, despite restrictions, an outbreak of the delta variant has led to Arden’s government reconsidering the strict rules imposed on the population.

In October, Arden admitted that the country can’t completely get rid of COVID-19.

“For this outbreak, it’s clear that long periods of heavy restrictions has not got us to zero cases,” Ardern said. “But that is OK. Elimination was important because we didn’t have vaccines. Now we do, so we can begin to change the way we do things.”

Tags COVID-19 Delta variant New Zealand Pandemic restrictions

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