Thursday, November 25, 2021

An eventful week

This week has been important for New Zealand’s move toward a world in which Covid-19 is endemic, one in which the country re-opens to the world—and itself. The new system is designed to keep New Zealanders safe while letting us get on with more or less “normal” life. Well, vaccinated people will have that, anyway: Unvaccinated people will face restrictions.

On Wednesday of last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made some announcementsabout the new Covid-19 Protection Framework, which the government is now also calling “the traffic light system”, as most New Zealanders and the news media do. The framework will replace our current Alert Level system—and its lockdowns—and provide a way for fully-vaccinated people to have near-normal life. She said that all of New Zealand would move to the new system together, and shortly after Cabinet reaffirms the move Monday of next week (November 29).

At the press conference on Monday (video and transcript at the link), the prime minster announced, “the whole country will move into the new traffic light system, at 11.59 p.m. on Thursday, 2 December, making Friday, 3 December the first day that the traffic light system will be operationalised.”

On Monday, Cabinet will look at the various DHB (District Health Board) areas to see where their vaccination rates are at, or likely to be at not long afterward, what the uptake of “My Vaccine Pass” has been, and related issues to determine which “light” they’ll be starting in. The prime minister had already said that Auckland will be at Red because of the current outbrak, and in Monday’s press conference she also said that:
We will not be placing any region into green, and that is because we’re in a transition environment. We don’t want regions yo-yoing, and starting in green is an unlikely place for people to stay while we’re transitioning at the moment, particularly with [the Auckland] boundary changes.
Any parts of the country placed at Red, and it’s at least possible the entire country may be, it be similar to the way things are now for fully-vaccinated New Zealanders (and, as of today, 84% of eligible New Zealanders are fully vaccinated, and 92% have had at least one jab). However, for unvaccinated eligible people, it will be similar to living under the current Level 3 restrictions.

The other big announcement came on yesterday when Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins announced the government’s plan for “Reconnecting New Zealand — the next steps”, which includes timelines and requirements for opening up New Zealand’s borders, beginning on January 16, 2022 with people in Australia, then extending to New Zealanders in other countries a month later before opening in April to any eligible person anywhere in the world (except countries deemed :high risk”).

At the core of the new system is self-isolation: In addition to mandatory testing, the government will require 7-day self isolation for fully-vaccinated people. While this shouldn’t be a problem for Kiwis returning to family, tourists won’t be able to do that unless some sort of private isolation facilities open. There’s apparently never been a case of Covid found in fully-vaccinated people arriving from Australia, so it’s logical to wonder if the self-isolation requirement will remain long-term.

Another problem for Australians or New Zealander who live in Australia is that travelling to New Zealand is one thing, but travelling back to Australia without quarantine may not be possible, depending on which Australian state they live in. So, returning to New Zealand without staying in an MIQ facility will be great, but, right now, anyway, it looks like it’d work mostly for those returning to New Zealand permanently.

A potential problem for us all in the weeks ahead is the teeny, tiny, and aggressive anti-vax/government extremist nutjobs who are becoming increasingly abusive and even violent toward retail workers. However, as the fully-vaccinated majority of people begin to take advantage of the freedoms they’ll have with the new traffic light system, only the hard-core lunatics will remain a threat (as, indeed, they always are—that’s nothing new).

The fact is, there is every reason to think that in the months ahead New Zealand will become a much more positive—and fun—place again as people just get on with “normal” life. The loudmouth loons may still spit into the wind (sometimes literally, probably), but the vast majority will just get on with life again. And that’s exactly what we’ve wanted for a long time.

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

Good to see that you have your (much smaller) share of wingnuts.