Covid 19 outbreak: What would life in red look like as an Omicron outbreak looms?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the whole of New Zealand will move to the red traffic light setting within 24-48 hours once Omicron enters the community.

But what does life in the red level look like?

Earlier today, Ardern revealed that Northland will join the rest of New Zealand at the orange traffic light settings from midnight tonight, and confirmed that there won’t be lockdowns when Omicron gets into the community.

Ardern said the Government knew, from the experience of other countries, that it could take as little as 14 days for Omicron cases to grow from the hundreds into the thousands.

While the red traffic light setting is not as restrictive as previous lockdowns in alert level 3 and 4, there are still rules businesses and people must abide by.

Ardern said Omicron was demonstrating the pace at which it moves, and mask use, social distancing and reducing gathering sizes were a focus.

Red level

Red is the most restrictive traffic light setting, but domestic travel can continue.

It is applied to areas where action is deemed necessary to protect vulnerable communities and the health system from unsustainable hospitalisations of people with Covid-19.

In red, face coverings are mandatory when travelling on public transport, in retail and to an extent in education. Public facilities and retail outlets are open, with capacity limits.

With a vaccine pass, many businesses and gathering types can grow to 100 people, including hospitality, weddings, gyms and tangihanga. Without passes, hospitality must remain contactless and the aforementioned gatherings are limited to 25 people.

However, without a vaccine pass hospitality must remain contactless and gatherings inside homes are allowed with up to 25 people.

In terms of work, people should work from home if appropriate, while tertiary education, schools and early childhood care centres remain open with public health measures in place.

However, tertiary education must be done remotely if a vaccine pass is not used.

Gyms and close contact businesses such as hairdressers and beauty salons can open in red also long as public health measures are in place and a 100-person capacity is in place for gyms.

Orange level

The orange setting is intended for regions where community transmission is pressuring the health system.

The primary change at orange from red is that, with vaccine passes, there are no limits on gathering sizes for hospitality or at in-home functions, weddings, tangihanga, gyms etc.

However, without vaccine passes, hospitality is still contactless while gathering and event size limits double to 50.

Just like any other level in the Covid-19 Protection Framework, scanning in at locations is required. Face masks are also required on flights, public transport, retail, public venues and encouraged elsewhere.

While public facilities and retail can open in orange, 1m distancing must be used when out and about.

Workplaces, schools, early childcare centres and gyms are able to open with public health
measures in place.

Just like in red, close contact businesses and gyms can reopen as long as vaccine passes are used.

In terms of gatherings and events, up to 50 people can attend a gathering at home, weddings, Tangihana etc if vaccine passes are not used.

The same rules apply for outdoor community gatherings such as a community fair.

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