A new traffic light-style warning system will replace the Covid-19 alert levels and end nationwide lockdowns, the Government has announced.
The system will kick into gear once Auckland and the wider country hit vaccination targets of 90 per cent. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Auckland is scheduled to hit its target before Christmas, meaning relative freedoms will return by the summer.
The Government is calling the system a Covid-19 protection framework.
There are three stages, but all three allow relatively high rates of freedom compared to the current alert level system. However, they will also require the use of vaccine certificates for nearly everything apart from essential retail and services, like supermarkets and GPs.
Ardern has a stark warning for people who continued to choose not to be vaccinated, saying they would not be able to continue to enjoy the full freedoms under the new system.
There are incentives for businesses too - businesses that choose to use vaccine certificates will be able to operate at all alert levels, while those who choose not to, will face harsh lockdown-style measures and could be cut off from business support.
Red will be used when there is an outbreak and the health system is facing an "unsustainable number of hospitalisations".
Unlike at current alert levels, everything will be allowed to remain open during an outbreak.
Hospitality will be open, but seated and separated. There will be a 100 person cap. Gyms and hairdressers will be allowed to remain open. These will all require a vaccine certificate.
People will still be encouraged to work from home.
For places where vaccination certificates are not used, settings similar to alert level 3 will apply, like contactless retail and hospitality.
The orange level will indicate a limited outbreak, but there is an "increasing" risk to at risk populations. The health system is "focusing resources" on Covid, but it can still manage as a whole.
For businesses that use vaccination certificates, there will be no numerical caps, but some public health measures like distancing, which will put an effective cap on distancing.
Schools are open, but there are public health measures. Gatherings, churches, and marae will be able to operate as normal if they use vaccination certificates.
Green will mean effectively no public health measures. It is for when there is limited community transmission.
For businesses that use vaccination certificates, there are no limits on hospitality or gatherings.
For places where vaccination certificates are not used, restrictions like masking will be required and there will be caps of 100 people on hospitality and gatherings.
Across all levels, face coverings will be mandatory on flights.
Auckland will move into the new framework when it has hit a vaccination target of 90 per cent across all three of its DHBs.
The rest of the country will move into the framework when each individual DHB hits a target of 90 per cent.
Cabinet will review vaccination progress on November 29 and make further decisions then.
Jacinda Ardern said the "current alert level framework and elimination strategy kept us safe and the economy functioning while we vaccinated".
But she said the new framework was necessary for the future.
"Now as more Kiwis are protected by the vaccine we need a new plan that moves away from lockdowns as our primary defence against the virus."
Ardern said the new system would provide some certainty to people who had done what the Government had asked and got vaccinated.
"As we move through the most challenging part of the vaccination campaign this is the clearest incentive we can offer to people to get vaccinated. If you want to do the things you love then you need to get vaccinated."
Ardern said the system would end nationwide lockdowns as we know them, but she said the Government retained the ability to use localised lockdowns.
The new system will require a law change to the Covid-19 Response Act which will address issues around vaccination certificates.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said he was keen to look at limiting the ability of businesses that had not used vaccination certificates to access business support, but this was not announced formally.