I spent a fair bit of time last week getting my head around the new Covid-19 Protection Framework – better known as the 'traffic light' system - due to come into effect from the end of November. We heard the Prime Minister saying Northland is likely to move directly to the red level, along with Auckland and any regions in New Zealand with low vaccination rates.
I wanted to have a clear understanding of why the framework is being put in place, and what the implications would be for the people in our District.
The first thing I looked at was 'why'. The answer lies in our ability to cope with a potential outbreak, based on our number of ICU beds and current vaccination levels. It's a 'what if?' scenario, where the worst-case outcome is still avoidable. With only eight ICU beds in the whole of Northland, and a vaccination rate of just 73 per cent double-vaccinated (as at yesterday), our region would not cope with a large-scale community outbreak.
My second question was around implications for our economy, education, public events and gatherings, and hospitality and tourism sectors.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Initially, I assumed that there would be greater loss of freedom with the traffic light system, impacting our economy across all sectors. What I found, however, was that we're likely to feel a much-needed boost as a result of increased travel freedom between the rest of the country, particularly with our Auckland neighbours.
Tourism, hospitality and retail sectors should all see an uptick, as we welcome back our normal flood of visitors over the summer season. In fact, indications are that we may have a tidal wave rather than a flood, with many double-vaxed city-dwellers heading north when the borders open on December 15, desperate for some much-needed beachside rest, recreation and hospitality.
Learning any new system is difficult, and it may take a while for us to come to terms with the new settings. There will be many conversations while we figure out what the changes mean in practice, particularly for those in hospitality, event management, tourism and retail.
It's important to acknowledge that many of our businesses will be placed in a tough position. Businesses using vaccination certificates will have greater freedoms, but will need to put measures in place to accept vaccinated-only patrons. As our vaccination rates increase in Northland, this should become less of an issue, however right now it's a divisive topic.
My heart goes out to our business and wider community, this is new territory for all of us. It's up close and personal, and there are hard decisions being made across our country. I urge everyone to remember this is a decision based on safety and risk management, we're doing the best we can to avoid overwhelming our health system in the case of a community outbreak.
Please, be kind, be patient, and most importantly, get vaccinated!