The traffic light system: a path of progress or a divided society?

The new traffic light system revealed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday will see freedoms restored for fully vaccinated New Zealanders. And those who have not received two injections of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine will be largely excluded from eating in restaurants, attending concerts and festivals, and even having their hair cut.

In other words, those who are not vaccinated will experience a limited version of everyday life in society.

This is only fair for those who have made the choice to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others, Ardern said – and the new system seeks to offer people with double the blow “protection from those who don’t. not made that choice ”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson, Chris Hipkins and Peeni Henare present the new <a class=traffic light system on Friday.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

ROBERT KITCHIN / Tips

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson, Chris Hipkins and Peeni Henare present the new traffic light system on Friday.

In order to leave the old alert level system behind and move to the traffic light – where even red, businesses can stay open – ideally, district health boards will have immunized 90 percent of their eligible population.

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Vaccination certificates are at the center of it all. Even in the green surroundings, if certificates are not used, there will be limits of 100 people, with physical distancing, at venues, gatherings, events and gymnasiums.

“If you want summer, if you want to go to bars and restaurants, get the shot,” Ardern said. “If you want to have your hair cut, get vaccinated. If you want to go to a concert or a festival, get yourself vaccinated. If you want to go to a gym or sporting event, get vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, there will be some everyday things that you will miss.

Companies that choose not to use certificates will either be closed or have public health measures in place.

The anti-vaccination groups have described Aotearoa’s way forward as a system of segregation. They echo international anti-vaccination groups who claim they are suffering from “medical apartheid” – an offensive and inappropriate comparison to enforced racial segregation.

But there are legitimate fears that the groups that were left behind in the vaccine rollout will be further marginalized. Rhys Jones, a public health doctor and senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, says the new system could see Maori communities in particular face further discrimination.

“Access to education, employment and a range of social and leisure activities may be restricted for those who are not vaccinated, which is likely to disproportionately affect those already among them. the most marginalized in society. “

A new system of traffic lights” for the management of Covid-19 will replace – in the long term – the existing alert levels.” style=”width:100%;display:inline-block”/>

Kathryn George / Stuff

A new system of “traffic lights” for the management of Covid-19 will replace – in the long term – the existing alert levels.

Jones, along with other health experts, previously pointed to the glaring inequality in the rollout of the vaccine in the country. He now fears that Maori communities may become the scapegoats for delays in meeting immunization targets, fueling racist narratives.

“There is a real risk that this inequity can now be used as a weapon against Maori communities as the government seeks to shirk responsibility and blame Maori for misuse of vaccination. “

We know that Maori and Pasifika are at greater risk of catching the virus and becoming seriously ill or dying once infected. Jones says the government must take responsibility for an inequitable vaccine rollout and do everything possible to address it.

“They must be true to their word to leave no one behind.”

John McMillan, a professor at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Otago and editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, agrees that before switching to the new system, everyone must have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.

“One of the challenges is that we really have to lay the foundations for fairness and equal opportunity. “

While he understands that people are exercised about the idea of ​​restrictions based on immunization status, it helps to keep in mind that our lives are already very structured by the country we live in and its system. legal.

“There are a bunch of ways to do things and not to do things because there is a system in place that is inherently coercive. And we don’t mind, in fact we are thankful that there is a structure around these things.

The next time you get in a car, he says, think about why you are driving on the left side of the road and why you are grateful that the person coming your way is doing the same.

“If anyone chose to ignore the rules and drive on the wrong side of the road, they would be punished somehow. We do not see this as problematic.

While he understands the role of informed consent in medical treatment and vaccination, he hopes people can view vaccination as something they do to help protect the safety of others.

New Zealand has set a relatively high vaccination target compared to many other countries.

Brya Ingram / Stuff

New Zealand has set a relatively high vaccination target compared to many other countries.

“There are things we are already doing, as medical professionals, as university professors, as a person in a professional role, to protect the safety of the people we are trying to help. And it’s about doing the things we need to do to do our jobs well and take care of the people we serve.

Abroad, doctors have expressed anger at having to treat voluntarily unvaccinated Covid-19 patients, putting hospital staff and other patients needlessly at risk. In the United States, almost all Covid-19 deaths now occur among Americans who are not fully vaccinated.

People who were initially reluctant but then decided to get bitten were motivated by the increase in the number of cases and seeing hospitals filling up with Covid-19 patients, international surveys have shown. Other major motivations included the desire to participate in activities requiring vaccination and social pressure from family and friends.

Psychologist Sarb Johal says it's important to continue to reach out to those who refuse to be vaccinated and let them know it's OK if they change their position.

Stacy Squires / Stuff

Psychologist Sarb Johal says it’s important to continue to reach out to those who refuse to be vaccinated and let them know it’s OK if they change their position.

Registered clinical psychologist Dr Sarb Johal says it is important to continue to address the concerns of people in our social circles who are unsure of getting the vaccine: “Don’t give up on them. “

Especially powerful are stories of people who were initially hesitant but ended up getting shot, according to Johal.

“It’s good to change your mind, you can do it without losing face. And it is important that people have every chance to change their mind.

Based on what has happened in other countries, Johal says we can expect more people to roll up their sleeves when they realize the limits that would otherwise be placed on their daily activities.

“We have a few weeks to really focus on protecting as many people as possible. This is going to be critical.

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