Businesses and politicians react to Covid traffic light removal
The government’s decision to scrap the Covid-19 traffic light system has been welcomed by opposition parties and businesses, although some fear the changes could hurt the country’s most vulnerable.
The change means masks won’t be needed except in healthcare settings, household contacts won’t need to self-isolate, vaccination mandates will be lifted from September 26 and access to antiviral drugs will be expanded. .
READ MORE: Covid-19 traffic light system to be scrapped late tonight
Healthcare facilities include medical clinics, pharmacies, hospitals and nursing homes.
Remaining vaccination mandates will be dropped in two weeks on September 26, including for healthcare workers and foreign tourists.
There will be no vaccination requirements for international travelers and crew.
The country’s business and hospitality communities have been pleased with the news and hope it will help businesses recover from a tough time so far during the pandemic.
Hospitality New Zealand said it was the best news hospitality and accommodation businesses have heard in two and a half years.
“Finally. Operators have been waiting for this news for a very long time,” said Managing Director Julie White.
“It will make a difference for all businesses, big and small, as it will hopefully give more people the confidence they have been waiting for to socialize in venues, cafes and restaurants.
“Many businesses are still recovering from the restrictions of the past two years, and with our borders now open, there is real light at the end of the tunnel.”
Business NZ chief executive Kirk Hope said the traffic light system had become “obsolete” and welcomed the removal of the framework to allow individual businesses to decide their own rules.
“No two sites are the same and each company can decide what works for their own environment when it comes to minimizing the spread of Covid-19,” Hope said.
“Businesses have a strong incentive to keep employees, customers and visitors safe in order to continue operating.”
Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said retailers would be delighted the government had finally abandoned the “absurd mask rules” which had seen high levels of in-store aggression, violence and anti-social behaviour. from some members of the public.
However, he said the government may continue to review the isolation period for Covid-19 cases and reduce it to three to five days to align with rules in other countries.
The government’s decision was also good news for National and ACT, with National Chief Christopher Luxon telling New Zealanders: “The traffic light system has been out of date for some time.”
“It’s time for the country to move on and focus on the things that matter most.”
He said that beyond health and aged care facilities, mask-wearing should be up to each individual.
Luxon said he would determine when he would wear a mask, but in most cases he wouldn’t.
David Seymour of ACT said scrapping the traffic light system was “absolutely the right thing to do, but it was also the right thing to do six months ago”.
He called it “insulting zombie laws”, saying the government needed to go further in reducing periods of isolation.
But not everyone agrees with the changes, with some worried about what it means for the country’s most vulnerable communities.
Green Party Covid spokesman Teanau Tuiono said “vital” public health measures were missing from the response.
“The almost complete removal of long-standing protections will be of considerable concern for immunocompromised and disabled whānau whose welfare should be at the center of the government’s response,” Tuiono said.
“What is certain is that Covid and other respiratory diseases are here to stay. We will live with new waves of infection for many years to come. The immediate focus must be on slowing the spread of Covid-19 through long-term public protective health measures, alongside equal access to all future vaccines.”
Aged Concern Auckland chief executive Kevin Lamb said it was important to remember that “we are not completely out of the woods yet”.
“Older people in our communities are some of the most vulnerable people. It’s great for them, as it’s great for everyone that these restrictions we lived under are gone, but we have to be careful.
“We have to look after them to make sure we stay alert. If we’re going to be visiting older relatives in a nursing home, it’s probably wise to keep wearing that mask.”