COVID-19: Auckland reopens as New Zealand tries new approach
WELLINGTON – Bars, restaurants and gyms reopened in Auckland on Friday as the final major parts of a more than 100-day closure ended.
New Zealand has begun a new phase in its coronavirus response, where there will be no lockdown but everyone will be required to be fully vaccinated – and prove it with a vaccine card – to access many services. .
The government decided that vaccination rates were high enough to make the switch to the new system, with about 87% of people 12 years of age and older fully immunized. In Auckland, which was once the epicenter of the country’s outbreak, the rate was more than 90%.
The threat posed by the new omicron variant has not changed reopening plans, after New Zealand on Sunday restricted travel from nine South African countries. No omicron cases have been found in New Zealand and officials still believe these cases will be caught by the quarantine system at the border.
On Friday, there was a sense of excitement among Auckland patrons, some of whom had visited the bars at a time when they were allowed to open at midnight.
Michael Barnett, chief executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, said many business owners will find some relief, who will try to make the most of the next few weeks before Christmas.
He said many owners are trying to fulfill new obligations to check vaccine tags.
“There are so many questions, more than anything else,” Barnett said. “Questions about ` `How do I operate? What do I do? What do I ask?” It’s been a bad day for a lot of businesses. “
Some limitations remain. Auckland’s borders with the rest of the country won’t reopen until mid-December.
A new “traffic light” system designed to indicate outbreaks is putting pressure on the health system. The green designation imposes some restrictions, orange requires masking and further vision, and red limits gathering size to 100 people or less.
Auckland and a few other areas have begun to have red lights while the rest of the country has started to turn orange. The government hopes to turn Auckland orange soon.