18 Oct 2022

Explainer: Major changes on way for government's Covid-19 response

2:01 pm on 18 October 2022
End to several Covid-19 measures

The government is planning on scrapping several aspects of its Covid-19 response framework. Photo: 123RF / RNZ

The government is streamlining its Covid-19 response powers, but the seven-day isolation period will remain for now.

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 will be narrowed to allow for a limited set of public health measures, as a guard against new Covid-19 waves or variants.

A legacy of the pandemic was the lesson that the government needed to be prepared for any future event instead of having to start from scratch as in 2020, acting Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

He announced a raft of measures that are set to be scrapped with the end to some that have caused controversy since their inception, such as lockdowns, MIQ and vaccine mandates.

So what's on the way out?

  • All measures such as vaccine mandates, managed isolation (MIQ), gathering limits and lockdowns will be gone by year's end
  • The New Zealand Traveller Declaration for passengers arriving by air will no longer be required from Thursday
  • The Epidemic Notice, which represented a move away from emergency arrangements to long-term management of the virus, Hipkins said

"What [was] once justified and served our country well should now be removed. With these changes, the legal framework matches the risk," Hipkins said.

So what's staying?

What's coming?

The government is planning to consult and design new emergency epidemic response legislation which will be introduced into Parliament by the end of the year.

"When Covid arrived we had limited legislative tools to respond and new ones had to be created. It is critical that a legacy of this pandemic is a fit for purpose piece of pandemic legislation like we have for civil defence and natural disasters," Hipkins said.

Professor of Public Law Andrew Geddis from University of Otago told Morning Report today that it was important that questions were raised on how far reaching the legislation should be.

New Zealand's Parliament was "quite remarkable" in that it could pass legislation very quickly as it did with the initial Covid-19 response legislation which was created in three days, he said.

However, there were some downsides to this, Geddis said, such as having to amend the legislation several times.

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