Govt to ditch alert levels for new traffic light system

Kristin Hall
Source: 1News

Our Covid-19 alert level system is to be scrapped with a new traffic light-based system set to be announced next week.

1News understands the green light setting would be for when cases are isolated and restrictions would be very limited, like Alert Level 1.

If case numbers increase to form clusters the orange light setting would mean limits on entry into venues, with vaccination status to be a factor in whether people get let in.

At the red setting, when there are multiple clusters in different areas, there'd be restrictions on gatherings and travel.

When asked about the traffic light system today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government has been consulting on such a model for the last couple of weeks.

“What we’re looking to do is use the fact that we now have many New Zealanders who are vaccinated, so how can we use vaccination as a way to again give greater access to some of the things that have been high-risk in the past.”

“Later next week is when we’ll be setting out what the new framework using vaccine certificates will look like and that’s when we anticipate being able to give a bit more certainty to Aucklanders about what will happen in the future.”

It comes after steps were introduced to Auckland’s Level 3 last Monday in order to gradually introduce new freedoms, but there was confusion about what exactly was allowed, with contradictory advice about things like using the toilet at another person’s house.

The Government floated the traffic light idea with independent health experts in a meeting on Thursday. Sources have told 1News it wasn't received particularly well, with many experts keen to stick to our current alert level system for now.

It comes after 1News revealed members of the Government’s Covid-19 Technical Advisory Group weren’t consulted about the move away from elimination and the introduction of steps in Auckland.

University of Melbourne epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely says one thing that’s worked well in Australia is tying the loosening of restrictions to vaccination targets as well as case numbers, something the New Zealand government hasn’t done so far.

“Having the vaccination rates in there as part of the targets and therefore the date for release is a good thing. It has incentivised people to become vaccinated. It's been part of a whole culture change where you’re seeing a sense of obligation playing out to be vaccinated,” Blakely says.

Clinical psychologist Dr Sarb Johal says any new system needs to be simple.

“This new step process that we've got in this transitional stage has lost a bit of clarity here for many people, like the clear message that there shouldn’t be any mixing of bubbles indoors, that’s been lost a little clearly.”

“Whatever this new process is also has to help people understand clearly what to do, show them how to do it, give them clear guidance on how to do it right or wrong and if it's making a difference.”

The details and timelines for the traffic-light based system will be announced by the government next week.