Pōhutukawa flowering at Christmastime. (Oneclearvision via iStock/Getty)
Pōhutukawa flowering at Christmastime. (Oneclearvision via iStock/Getty)

The BulletinNovember 18, 2021

Auckland to open by Christmas as elimination ends

Pōhutukawa flowering at Christmastime. (Oneclearvision via iStock/Getty)
Pōhutukawa flowering at Christmastime. (Oneclearvision via iStock/Getty)

On November 29 the prime minister will announce which regions of New Zealand will enter the red and orange Covid levels, Justin Giovannetti writes in The Bulletin.

The end of Auckland’s hard border. Nearly four months after Auckland went into lockdown, the border around the city will be lifted on December 15. Alice Neville wrote an explainer for The Spinoff about the prime minister’s announcement yesterday. While only Aucklanders who are double-vaccinated or those with a recent negative test for Covid-19 will be allowed to travel, the date will effectively mark the end of the elimination strategy throughout New Zealand.

How the new system will work. The government had earlier sought to find a way to keep cases bottled up in Auckland, with the Covid-19 response minister musing two weeks ago that a hard border could be maintained around the city. However that idea was quickly shelved following widespread opposition. Instead, as Stuff reports, the government has abandoned plans to get all DHBs across the country to 90% vaccination. The only layer of protection will be a number of spot-checks mounted by police around Auckland, which will likely mean few cars will be stopped on the motorway as a flood of Aucklanders leave for the holidays. Experts have warned that case numbers will surge throughout the country.

A date to keep circled in your calendar. While it might not be freedom day, November 29 will mark the next big milestone in the country’s Covid-19 response. The NZ Herald has details on what to expect. For Aucklanders there will be few surprises on that day. The prime minister will likely announce that the Auckland region will enter the red level of the traffic light system a few days later. For the rest of New Zealand, decisions made that day will dictate how people will celebrate Christmas and live for months to come.

The unvaccinated face a tough future. The entire country will enter the traffic light system at the same time as Auckland, but while highly vaccinated regions will enter the more permissive orange setting, those with large outbreaks or low vaccine coverage will join Auckland in red. If you’re in Northland, the east coast and a number of other areas, you’ll want to pay attention. For the vaccinated, little will feel different from today. For the unvaccinated, especially in level two areas, it will be a harsh transition — however, one that follows months of ample warning. As Bridie Witton reports for Stuff, freedoms for the unvaccinated are now shrinking.

The new plan marks the final breakdown of political consensus. Two months ago, Covid-19 minister Chris Hipkins quipped after seeing the National party’s pandemic proposal: “They are willing for Kiwis to get Covid for Christmas”. He’s now regretting those words after signing off on a plan that professor Michael Plank has warned will spread the virus around the country by Christmas. RNZ reports that parliament, apart from Labour, is united in opposition to the next stage of the government’s approach to Covid-19. The Green and Māori parties have said the government is moving too fast and should keep Auckland sealed, while Act and National say the country should open up completely by the end of the month. The political consensus that once supported the elimination strategy has been fraying for months, but is now completely gone.

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Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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