After 100 days of lockdown, Aucklanders finally got the chance yesterday to get a much-needed haircut and trial the vaccine passport.
Hakan Altan unsheathed his scissors at Hedzabove hair salon in Kohimarama at 7am, one among hundreds of city hairdressers reopening for the first time since the latest Delta Covid outbreak on August 17.
After long weeks that left Aucklanders with no chance of a trim, colouring or style, Altan set about doing battle with a range of wild, unkempt mullets.
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When Auckland and the rest of the country go into the Government's new Covid management traffic light system on December 3, vaccine passes will be needed to enter most bars, cafes and hairdressers as well as all music festivals, rugby games and major events.
In the meantime, vaccine passes are being trialled at hairdressers and barbers in Auckland.
Later in the morning, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, was back in Auckland for only the second time in 100 days, meeting members of the business and social sector communities and visiting Western Springs College in her electorate of Mt Albert.
There, she thanked Aucklanders for making all the difference by staying home, getting vaccinated and, literally, saving lives.
Speaking with media, Ardern said she understood the pandemic made the ability for businesses to plan difficult, but the Government wanted to get the domestic settings right
so there wasn't an increase in cases and a further escalation of restrictions.
She said Auckland will start at the red traffic light setting next week to make sure restrictions were eased in a careful way so case numbers don't balloon.
Once restrictions had been eased, the situation could be reassessed. "We do want to ease carefully so we will see the impact of those changes," she said.
Her comments came as Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealand would revert to the alert level system if a new vaccine-resistant variant overwhelmed the country and the traffic light framework couldn't contain it.
While the Government was absolutely committed to the traffic light system, a back-up plan would be going back to the alert level system, he said.
Hipkins also said tens of thousands of travellers are expected to flood New Zealand each week when the borders reopen next year.
He was speaking a day after the Government announced changes to the MIQ system that will see fully vaccinated Kiwis skip MIQ facilities from January.
Both Arden and Hipkins defended the speed at which the traffic light legislation was rushed through Parliament.
Ardern said while the Government was moving quickly there was still scrutiny.
"Had we not done what we have done, Auckland would face ongoing restrictions, and I don't think anyone would agree with that," she added.
Hipkins said in a pandemic they had to make decisions and in an ideal world he would like to have run it through a select committee for six months.
Yesterday, there were 178 new cases of Covid-19 across New Zealand and one virus-related death.
According to the Ministry of Health, a patient in their 50s died at Auckland City Hospital on Wednesday - the country's 41st Covid-19 death.
The patient was admitted on November 5.
There were two cases in Northland, 149 in Auckland, 16 in Waikato, nine in Bay of Plenty, one in Lakes and MidCentral - which is in Pahiatua.
The Government yesterday made a suite of new Covid-19 announcements, which include a $200 million boost for those isolating at home, the sale of rapid virus tests to the public and a $300m boost will allow Pharmac to buy new medicines to treat Covid-19 and provide extra care with its community approach,
Businesses are ahead of the queue when it comes to rapid antigen testing, and will get access to it from next week.
Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall announced businesses will be able to directly source approved rapid antigen tests for use within their workforce from December 1.
The tests will be more widely used across our health system, including in aged residential care.
For those isolating at home, Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said $204.1m will be made available to support those people.
"Supporting the welfare needs of individuals and whānau is central to how we will manage Covid-19 in the community from now on.
"Rapid antigen tests will also be available to the general public at pharmacies from December 15, with tests to be administered under the supervision of pharmacy staff. A PCR test will be required to confirm any positive results," Verrall said.
Health Minister Andrew Little said the $300m boost to Pharmac will buy new medicines to treat Covid-19, provide extra care with its community approach, support packs being provided within 48 hours and regular health checks throughout people's recovery.
The announcements come after the Government's approach to home isolation of positive cases has received strong criticism as the public health system struggles to bear the weight of Auckland's growing outbreak.