WELLINGTON: New Zealand will no longer require people to wear masks in indoor public spaces or to be vaccinated to work in certain roles, as the country winds down its pandemic battle and learns to live with Covid-19.
From midnight, face coverings won’t need to be worn anywhere except in health settings like hospitals and aged-care facilities, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference Monday in Wellington. The framework used to specify the level of risk to the community from Covid-19 and corresponding restrictions will be scrapped, she said.
“It’s time to safely turn the page on our Covid-19 management, and live without the extraordinary measures we have previously used,” Ardern said. “Finally, rather than feeling that Covid dictates what happens to us, our lives, and our futures, we take back control.”
The move brings the curtain down on New Zealand’s pandemic response some two and a half years after measures were first implemented. While the nation’s tough lockdowns and closed border initially kept Covid-19 at bay, the virus has spread rapidly this year and many people have already stopped adhering to mask-wearing rules.
With case numbers and hospitalizations falling as winter comes to an end, and a high level of vaccination in the population, Ardern said the country is in a position to jettison its remaining restrictions.
Some businesses may still require customers to wear masks but it will be at their own discretion. It will also be up to employers to decide whether to require their workforces to be vaccinated, with government vaccine mandates to end on September 26.
From midnight tonight, travelers to New Zealand will no longer need to be vaccinated or forced to submit rapid antigen test results after they arrive.
The only remaining requirement is that people who test positive for Covid-19 isolate at home for seven days. Household contacts won’t need to isolate and will just be asked to undertake a daily test, Ardern said.
“In short, we now move on to a simple two-requirements system of masks in healthcare settings and seven days isolation for positive cases only,” she said. “For the first time in two years we can approach summer with the much needed certainty New Zealanders and business need, helping to drive greater economic activity critical to our economic recovery.’