18 Oct 2021

Government to announce new Covid-19 approach on Friday

7:58 pm on 18 October 2021

The government will announce a new 'Covid-19 protection framework' on Friday for when the country is at a higher vaccination rate.

Jacinda Ardern looks at Chris Hipkins

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

RNZ understands ministers were due to consider a traffic light-like system New Zealand could move to once the population is highly vaccinated.

It could mark the next phase, away from using alert level restrictions, to a mix of protective measures in the event of outbreaks.

That could include mask use, gathering limits, social distancing, proof of vaccination and scanning.

It could be some months before it would be ready to be implemented.

Ardern, however, would not confirm if the Covid-19 protection framework will be a 'traffic light system'.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told Checkpoint there was still a lot of detail to work through with the plan.

"We need to make sure any targets we set are having the desired effect. It's not just about saying, it's 90 percent across the board, we actually have to look at making sure that we don't have high concentration pockets of unvaccinated people within the community.

"There will be vaccination targets and it will be clear what kind of levels of vaccination we'll be needing before we can move into a different type of approach to managing Covid-19.

"Every vaccination that happens over the next few weeks is going to help us step towards having greater degrees of freedom. Once we hit the target, we don't want to stop there either."

Hipkins said the 90 percent vaccination rate will feature "prominently".

"There's a lot to be set out, there's a lot of detail we've been working our way through that will all be confirmed and all the details put together so that people will really understand how all of the working parts fit together."

Hipkins said he was hoping Auckland students could return to school this year.

He said planning work was underway for safe return to classrooms and he would be detailing that plan in the coming days.

"I've made a commitment that by the middle of the week I will be sending out more details," Hipkins said.

"We haven't made final decisions, we are working through the details. One of the things that we're looking at of course is what's possible in terms of staggering school start times, potentially staggering the groups of students that we have back in schools so that we can get kids back in school.

"I'm particularly conscious of senior high school students, that exams are looming for them.

"We are working through that with the education team and with the health team because we've got to reconcile those two things."

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