Here's What You Need to Know About New Zealand's Red Traffic Light Level

Once again the Government has moved quickly to crack down on the contagious Omicron COVID-19 variant — so what does it mean for you?
Sarah Templeton
Published on January 24, 2022

New Zealanders are waking up to a slew of cancelled events and revised public health measures on Monday, January 24,  after the entire country was plunged into 'red' in the country's COVID-19 protection traffic light framework.

The change came after Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced in an emergency press conference on Sunday, January 23 that the country was experiencing its first community spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant of COVID-19, which has been spreading quickly overseas, including across the ditch in Australia.

Nine of the cases are originally from the Nelson-Tasman region, but travelled to Auckland over the weekend of January 15-16 to attend a wedding. An Air New Zealand flight attendant also has tested positive for Omicron and worked while infectious.

So what are the red rules?

For those who need a reminder, businesses including retail stores and hospitality venues are still able to operate at red, but with increased limitations. Cafes and bars are able to operate with limits of up to 100 people based on 1-metre distancing, and only those with vaccine passes are able to visit. Clubs and bars are similarly able to open but patrons must be seated and separated — no mixing, mingling and dancing allowed.

Retail businesses also remain open, but customers must be wearing face coverings, and shops can choose to require vaccine passes if they wish.

With no border restrictions in place, anyone can travel around the country in the red setting for any reason. You don't need to be vaccinated or have a negative test to travel unless you are travelling by airline or ferry.

Events and festivals canned

Due to number limitations, the news is not great for festival and event organisers, many of whom had rescheduled events that fell victim to the country's level 4 lockdown last year.

One of those victims is New Zealand Fashion Week, which was rescheduled for February after being forced to cancel its August 2021 event. Dame Pieter Stewart, managing director and founder of NZFW said in a statement the news was "incredibly disappointing for everyone involved".

"Our designers have put in a huge amount of work, as have our partners, buyers, models, production teams and a number of other people," she said. "[But] we respect the decision of the government to put the health and safety of all New Zealanders first."

Anther victim is annual LGBTQI+ festival Auckland Pride, with organisers announcing in a statement on Sunday that they were cancelling this year's week-long event. "This decision has not been made lightly, but is consistent with Auckland Pride's values and unwavering commitment to keeping Tāmaki Makaurau's rainbow communities safe," organisers said in a statement.

Executive director Max Tweedie said the high case numbers in Australia in particular have demonstrated "even without these restrictions, the Auckland Pride Festival proceeding during an Omicron outbreak would've been irresponsible."

Organisers added a small number of festival events, including an art activation, may take place safely in person or online, with more information due to come in coming weeks.

New Zealand's red restrictions came into place at 11:59pm on Sunday, January 23 and will be operating indefinitely. For more information on regulations and life at red, head to the Government's COVID-19 website.

Published on January 24, 2022 by Sarah Templeton
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