17 Nov 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to reveal timing of Auckland border restrictions easing

7:06 am on 17 November 2021

Aucklanders will today learn when they will be able to leave the super city and reunite with family and friends across the country.

A police checkpoint in Mercer, near Auckland's border with Waikato.

Police at Auckland's border checkpoint. Photo: RNZ/Nick Monro

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will announce the date this afternoon, but the hard boundary will likely be gone by the middle of December.

People will also finally be able to access one of the keys to leave the city, vaccination certificates, later this morning.

Ardern has promised Aucklanders will be able to leave the region for Christmas and the summer holidays.

"We've been very clear, we do need to allow Aucklanders, who've been doing the heavy lifting for New Zealand, to be able to move in time for Christmas and summer, whilst at the same time acknowledging the rest of the country will be looking for protections as well," she has said.

Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker wanted only fully immunised Aucklanders or those who have had a negative pre-departure test to be able to get out of the city.

"I don't think anyone in Auckland will want to travel to visit friends and family over the Christmas and New Year period outside Auckland and take this virus with them."

National Party MP Chris Bishop wanted the government to take a different approach.

"Once Auckland is released from the Auckland prison, just let Aucklanders leave and I don't think there should be a need for spot checks or vaccination status or anything like that," he said.

Rapid antigen testing should be used widely across Auckland instead, Bishop said.

Ardern already signalled a shift into the new traffic light framework for the whole country in the coming weeks, before every district health board has hit the 90 percent fully vaccinated target.

Auckland will move by early December as it has been in lockdown for months and its vaccination rates are high.

With the boundary lifting soon after, Aucklanders will be travelling to regions with much lower vaccination rates.

Prof Baker said that worried him.

"I'm particularly concerned about the very big inequality in vaccine coverage, obviously particularly for Māori whose vaccine levels ... is about 20 percent below that for Pākehā New Zealanders.

"That is a problem. They will experience much higher rates of the disease as a result and I really think we should try very hard to avoid that situation."

Te Tai Tokerau Border Control spokesperson Hone Harawira had a clear view of how that could be done.

"I'd ask the prime minister to consider opening the doors going south of Auckland, if south of Auckland is ready, but to keep the hard border on at Te Hana until such time as Te Tai Tokerau reaches at least the 90 percent."

If that did not happen, Northland's health system would soon be overwhelmed, Harawira said.

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