'Simply not viable' to keep Auckland boundary up - Wood

Source: 1News

Transport Minister Michael Wood said it "simply isn't viable" to keep Auckland locked up as the city looks to open its borders ahead of Christmas.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Wednesday that the Auckland boundary is expected to open on December 15 allowing people to travel freely to and from the city for the first time since the lockdown began in August.

However, those looking to travel in and out of the city must be fully vaccinated or provide a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure. Anyone caught breaking the rules could face a $1000 fine.

Ardern also revealed that when Auckland moves to the traffic light system, the rest of the country will follow. On November 29 the Government will set out a date the country will move to the traffic light system.

Transport Minister Michael Wood told Breakfast “reasonable precautions” have been put in place to “limit as much as possible any possibility that Covid might spread outside of Auckland”.

Wood said while there are concerns Covid could spread to places with lower vaccination rates, such as Northland and Gisborne, the Auckland boundary “was never going to be something that we were going to be able to retain long-term”.

“It simply isn’t viable to have an area of 1.7 million people unable to travel, and particularly after the extremely challenging year that we’ve had,” he said.

"Just absolutely rest assured that we are, and we will be doing, everything that we possibly can, particularly in areas where we have vulnerable communities, to get those vaccination rates up to provide additional protection and to make sure that people are kept safe."

“It’s not just ‘throw the gates open’, it’s having that level of protection in place so that we do limit the possibility of any spread,” he said.

Wood said the country has seen “extraordinary” progress in vaccine uptake in recent months, with 82 per cent of the eligible population having received both doses.

“All of this … is a really long and complex balance that we have to strike around keeping people together, around having the maximum levels of protection, and letting important social and economic activity happen.

“We believe it is the right balance to strike as we move into December and into summer, to move to the Covid Protection Framework.”

Wood said police spot checks - along with Covid passes, high vaccine uptake and the traffic light system - will work hand in hand to help control the spread of the virus.

“It’s not easy - there are risks that are here and we’ve been managing them all the way along, but I’ve got a level of confidence that based on the public health advice that I’ve heard, that Cabinet has heard, that it is appropriate for us to move to the Covid Protection Framework and we’ll continue to keep right on that.

He also reiterated the importance of continuing to push for higher vaccine uptake, particularly in more vulnerable communities.

“Regardless of these boundary decisions that we’re making, there is a risk of Covid entering communities and we’re seeing some of that happening at the moment.

“The way for communities to get protected is to get those vaccination rates up.”