From Alert Levels to traffic lights
The framework replaced Alert Levels in December 2021. It has 3 traffic light settings of Red, Orange and Green.
The framework aims to:
- help people protect one another from the virus
- keep hospitalisation rates as low as possible and avoid overwhelming the health system
- minimise the impact of large outbreaks
- reduce the need for lockdowns.
It also aims to give people and businesses more stability.
At all traffic light settings, essential services will continue to operate. This includes supermarkets, health services, emergency services, goods transport, and utilities such as power and water supplies.
Components of the framework
A high vaccination rate is a key tool to protect people and minimise the spread of COVID-19. Getting vaccinated means you are less likely to get extremely sick or infect other people.
Some workplaces may require staff to be vaccinated. Vaccine mandates for many government workers ended during 2022.
Wearing face masks is a way we can protect ourselves and others. At Red and Orange traffic light settings, there are some places you must wear a mask, such as on public transport and in supermarkets.
At Red, capacity limits apply in some indoor settings. Limits are based on 1-metre distancing, which means 1 metre square of space for each person, up to the maximum capacity limit. It does not mean everyone must stay 1 metre apart.
Capacity limits do not include workers (paid and unpaid).
Local protections and lockdowns
If an area has very high infection rates, extra restrictions such as local lockdowns or other protective steps may be used.
Examples of protective steps include:
- stay at home orders
- closing premises, such as schools or shops
- limiting numbers allowed at gatherings.
Timeline of key events
2 December 2021
The COVID-19 Alert Level System ends.
At 11:59pm New Zealand moves to the COVID-19 Protection Framework, or traffic light system.
Northland, Auckland, Taupo, Rotorua Lakes, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whanganui, and Ruapehu districts move to Red.
The rest of the North Island, and the South Island, move to Orange.
14 December 2021
Auckland boundary lifts at 11:59pm. People travelling out of Auckland need to be vaccinated or have proof of a negative test.
16 December 2021
First confirmed Omicron border case.
The international traveller tests positive soon after arriving on 10 December. Genome sequencing then detects Omicron.
30 December 2021
Auckland, Taupo, Rotorua Lakes, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whanganui, and Ruapehu districts move to Orange at 11:59pm.
Northland remains at Red.
17 January 2022
Auckland boundary-crossing rules end. People travelling out of Auckland no longer need proof of vaccination or a negative test.
20 January 2022
Northland moves to Orange at 11:59pm.
23 January 2022
First confirmed Omicron community cases.
All New Zealand moves to Red at 11:59pm.
26 January 2022
The Government introduces Omicron phases, with different approaches to testing and isolation as case numbers grow.
- Phase 1: Focus on stamping out small outbreaks, with PCR testing and 14-day isolation period for COVID-19 cases.
- Phase 2: Focus on slowing the spread and protecting those most at risk of getting seriously ill. Contact tracing switches to online self-assessments, isolation period drops to 10 days.
- Phase 3: Focus on safely managing COVID-19 at home, with self-testing kits of rapid antigen tests (RATs) and isolation only for people who test positive and their Household Contacts.
3 February 2022
Face mask rules change for Red at 11:59pm.
10 February 2022
Close Contact exemption scheme begins for workers in key sectors.
16 February 2022
All New Zealand moves to Phase 2 of the Omicron response at 11:59pm.
24 February 2022
All New Zealand moves to Phase 3 of the Omicron response at 11:59pm.
11 March 2022
Isolation period drops from 10 to 7 days at 11:59pm.
25 March 2022
Changes to traffic light settings at 11:59pm include:
- Indoor gathering limits at Red increase from 100 to 200 people.
- No more limits on numbers at outdoor gatherings in any traffic light setting.
- Contact tracing and record-keeping requirements end for businesses and other organisations.
4 April 2022
Vaccine passes are no longer needed in any traffic setting from 11:59pm.
Most vaccine mandates end for government workers.
All New Zealand remains at Red.
13 April 2022
All New Zealand moves to Orange at 11:59pm.
2 July 2022
Vaccine mandates end for border and corrections workers.
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