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Covid restrictions could be eased in the coming months. (Image: Robert Kitchin / Pool)
Covid restrictions could be eased in the coming months. (Image: Robert Kitchin / Pool)

The BulletinFebruary 22, 2022

Covid restrictions to ease after omicron peak

Covid restrictions could be eased in the coming months. (Image: Robert Kitchin / Pool)
Covid restrictions could be eased in the coming months. (Image: Robert Kitchin / Pool)

NZ faces a tough six weeks, but some vaccine mandates could end before winter, Justin Giovannetti writes in The Bulletin.

Some vaccine mandates will begin to lift after omicron peaks, but it could take some time. “It’s likely that very soon we will all know people who have Covid or we will get it ourselves,” Jacinda Ardern said yesterday as she unveiled a future with fewer pandemic restrictions. “There was a time when that was a scary prospect, but it doesn’t have to be now.” As The Spinoff’s live updates reports, the prime minister warned that the next six weeks will be difficult, with cases likely hitting a peak in late March. After that, case numbers are expected to fall rapidly. It isn’t clear when, but after the peak, when the hospital system is managing and enough beds are free, the country will start moving back down the traffic light system. The use of vaccine passes will be scaled back at that time and vaccine mandates for many workers will be removed.

Mandates are the ‘least bad option’ and they work: Ardern. Some workers facing vulnerable populations, especially those in health and possibly in education, could continue to face mandates through the pandemic. However for everyone else, mandates were always meant to be temporary, Ardern said. As Stuff reports, the prime minister directed her words to the protesters outside parliament to tell them she wasn’t backing down with the announcement. “Everyone is over Covid, no one wants to live with rules and restrictions, but if we hadn’t done what we did, we would have more Covid and lost people we love,” she said.

A full reopening could still wait until after winter. In response to a question about returning to the green level after omicron peaks, Ardern said that’s the goal, but warned there needs to be great care about when to move out of red. “The ministry of health do want us to be cautious as we hit winter,” said Ardern. There’s three reason for that caution: the border will reopen to all New Zealanders; the flu is likely to hit hard after two years without; and future waves of omicron could spread, especially as people spend more time inside. Each of the three could mean a significant rise in cases. If the hospital system finds itself with few spare beds in late April or early May, it’s possible a further reopening could wait as cold weather rolls in.

National warns of a ‘society divided’ by Labour’s Covid rules. Christopher Luxon said the prime minister was “missing in action” during a speech yesterday where he tried to stake out a middle ground between Labour and an Act party calling for a more immediate rollback of Covid rules. While the prime minister said she wouldn’t scale back restrictions as the country faces its most serious Covid threat, the National leader countered that she could remove mandates on border workers and children. On the latter point, the government has already said rules impacting children aren’t coming out of the Beehive. The NZ Herald’s Audrey Young (paywalled) said Luxon’s speech “reeks of opportunism” and was a serious misstep for the new leader. Luxon was trying to use the protest as a rhetorical device to attack the government. He wanted to place himself as a third option for a public that might need to choose between an illegal occupation and the prime minister. According to Young, he didn’t pick his targets well and it’s probably time for the opposition to rethink its approach.

The Spinoff’s Covid data tracker has the latest figures.

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