Government to open Auckland border on December 15, allowing travel for Christmas

The Auckland border will be lifted on December 15 to allow for Christmas travel, by which time the entire country will have moved into the less restrictive “traffic light” system – whether or not the Government’s 90 per cent vaccination target is reached.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the planned opening of Auckland on Wednesday, ending weeks of speculation about how the Government would manage the busy Christmas period after it promised that months of lockdown restrictions would end for summer.

From December 15, fully vaccinated people will be able to travel across the Auckland border freely. People who are unvaccinated will only be able to leave Auckland if they receive a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours prior to departure, but there will be no similar restriction on unvaccinated people entering Auckland. Police will conduct “random spot checks” to enforce this rule.

“This may be our toughest period to date … While I know there will be some who will think our moves [are] too fast, others too slow, I have no doubt that it is the best plan to keep us as safe and free as possible, to transition us safely to a new way of managing Covid,” Ardern said.

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The decision to move the entire country into the traffic light system “soon after” November 29 means the Government has effectively abandoned its target of reaching 90 per cent vaccination across each district health board before making the shift.

“Traffic light system is better designed for our new strategy to minimise and protect against Covid-19, and is more fit for purpose than the alert levels.

“It also offers greater incentives to be vaccinated and greater protections for both those who are and aren’t. That’s why it’s time to get ready to move,” Ardern said.

Ardern said Auckland would move into the “red” setting of the system, as would parts of the country with lower vaccination rates.

“This will add protections and hopefully also support an increase in vaccinations.”

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Under the “red” settings, hospitality venues, public facilities, events, and other close contact businesses will be able to open if the facility uses the vaccine certification system and excludes non-vaccinated people. Working from home will be encouraged, and schools and early education facilities will remain open.

For the Auckland border, travellers will be checked for their vaccine certificate or negative Covid-19 test when they check in at the airport. Air New Zealand has said the same restrictions will be placed on domestic flights, elsewhere in the country, from mid-December.

Travellers taking a ferry between Wellington and Picton will also be required to show proof of vaccination, or a negative Covid-19 test.

Ardern said the measures will mean “all entry points to the South Island will be well-covered checks to stop any potential spread to the South”.

Police will issue a $1000 infringement fine to any rule breakers. Police will also work with iwi at Auckland’s northern border “to ensure people can move, but also that the people of Northland have confidence in the checks that are in place”.

The vaccination or testing requirements will be in place from December 15, to January 17. The vaccination or testing requirements do not apply to children under 12 years, who are not eligible for vaccination.