SocietySeptember 12, 2022

Traffic light system gone: New Covid rules explained


Cabinet has just announced changes to Aotearoa’s Covid response plan. Here’s what you need to know about the new rules.

Wait a minute, new rules?

Well, it’s more like a new absence of rules. As of 11.59pm tonight (September 12), what we know as the traffic light system will end.

Was that expected?

It was forecast, but some experts warned against it.

OK so no colour stages… I’m not sure I even remember what those meant. Do I still have to wear a mask?

No. All mask wearing requirements will be removed, except in healthcare and aged care facilities.

What does “healthcare” mean?

Healthcare settings are, specifically:

  • primary care
  • urgent care
  • hospitals
  • pharmacies
  • aged residential care
  • disability-related residential care

What about my counselling session?

Counselling is not included, and neither are mental health and addiction services.

So no masks anywhere else, not even in supermarkets or on planes?

Not even in supermarkets or on planes. Some places may still ask you to wear a mask, but this will be at their discretion.

What about vaccines?

From 11.59pm tonight, there’ll be no vaccination requirements for incoming travellers and air crew.

All government vaccine mandates will end on September 26 (which is also the public holiday to commemorate the Queen).

No masks, no mandates (in two weeks). Got it. If I get Covid, do I still have to isolate?

Yes. If you test positive for Covid-19, you are still required to isolate for seven days.

What if my housemate gets Covid?

Household contacts will no longer be required to isolate. Daily RATs are encouraged for household contacts before going about their business.

I’m a little scared about catching Covid with no mask requirements. Reassure me?

Fair enough. Personal mask use and distancing is encouraged and obviously anyone feeling unwell should always stay home. There has been an order placed for 40,000 doses of anti-viral medication that will arrive within a few weeks and be automatically available to New Zealanders aged 65 and over, and Māori aged 50 and over if they test positive.

It seems like lots of people are still getting Covid though?

There were 1,149 new community cases today. The seven-day rolling average continues to drop, though is currently at 1,480. There have been 1,950 deaths confirmed as attributable to Covid-19, either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor.

There are currently 225 people in hospital with Covid-19.

That’s a lot of changes. Will I still get my daily Covid case numbers and updates?

No, sorry. From tomorrow, the Ministry of Health will report on case numbers weekly, rather than daily (or weekdays, as has been the case recently).

So I guess I just…do what I want?

Kind of! With only two rules (masks in health settings and isolate for seven days if you test positive), it is now up to individuals to determine their own Covid safety measures.

Keep going!