Nov 16, 2021 - World

Auckland lockdown to end

 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks during the post-cabinet COVID-19 update at the Beehive, on November 8, 2021 in Wellington, New Zealand

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Mark Mitchell - Pool/Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced pandemic travel restrictions on the Auckland region imposed in August will lift next month, but travelers must provide proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of departure.

Why it matters: Those who fail to comply with the requirement face an NZ $1,000 fine (U.S. $700) and police will be responsible for enforcement when it takes effect on Dec. 15, Ardern said at a briefing Wednesday afternoon New Zealand time.

  • "Police undertake random spot checks to enforce a range of laws on our roads, such as drink driving, and will take the same approach here," Ardern said.

The big picture: Ardern's government is moving away from its COVID-19 elimination strategy, which had proved successful before Delta arrived in New Zealand in mid-August and the entire country entered alert level 4 — the highest lockdown level.

  • Lockdowns have been lifted in most places outside of Auckland, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, and restrictions have eased somewhat for New Zealand's most populous city.
  • Retailers reopened earlier this month, but Auckland remains on lockdown level 3 — meaning Aucklanders must stay home at night and can't travel outside the region's boundary.

By the numbers: NZ recorded 194 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the vast majority in Auckland, taking the total since the outbreak began to 6,167.

Of note: Ardern said that her Cabinet would confirm on Nov. 29 the planned switch to the COVID-19 Protection Framework for New Zealand — known as the "traffic light system."

  • Auckland and areas with vaccination rates that haven't yet hit the 90% fully vaccinated goal would be placed in the "red" setting, while the rest of the country would move into "orange."
  • This system is also tied to vaccinations, with many businesses unable to operate unless all staff are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. Ardern last month announced a vaccine mandate for businesses that affects 40% of the workforce.
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