Is New Zealand’s new traffic light system our route to freedom?

The Government has announced its Covid-19 Protection Framework. This 3-level approach (Green, Orange. Red) is the next stage of our country’s response to Covid-19 (replacing our current alert levels) and aims to provide a pathway out of lockdown and to more freedoms for kiwis.

Vaccination will play a huge role in the roll out of the new framework. The Government has promised that the new Protection Framework will be introduced once 90% of eligible New Zealanders are fully vaccinated.

How will it work?

The new 3-tier framework promises to provide a more flexible approach to managing Covid-19 than our current Alert Level system. Just like traffic lights, the system tells us when we can go (i.e., do the things we enjoy), when we need to be cautious and when we need to pump the brakes.

Green basically means ‘we’re all go’ to go where and do what we want.  If we’re at Green, it means that there are some COVID-19 cases in the community, and sporadic imported cases. Community transmission will be limited and COVID-19 hospitalisations will be at a manageable level.

Orange means ‘we need to be cautious’ and there may be some restrictions on what we can and can’t do. If we’re at Orange, increasing community transmission that is putting pressure on our health system. The whole of health system will focus its resources, but can continue to manage primary care, public health, and hospitals.

Red means we may need to ‘stop’ and place heavier restrictions on what can and can’t be done. At Red, action will be needed to be taken to protect both at-risk people and protect our health system from an unsustainable number of hospitalisations.

Vaccine certificate requirements

Requiring a vaccination certificate will be optional for many locations. There will be some higher-risk settings where they will be a requirement in order to open to the public.

At all levels, businesses, retail, and public facilities will generally be able to remain open for vaccinated people. Businesses, events, organisations, community, and a range of sectors may legally choose to implement a vaccination entry requirement for customers.

If a business, organisation or service does not wish to request proof of vaccine, they will have to operate with strict limits on capacity and space requirements. They may need to close in Orange and/or Red levels.

Where can we go at the different levels?


  • Public facilities
  • Retail
  • Workplaces
  • ECEs, schools, kura and tertiary providers
  • Specified outdoor community events
  • Regional boundary restrictions will not apply.


  • Public facilities will be open with capacity limits based on 1m distancing
  • Retail will be open with capacity limits based on 1m distancing
  • Education facilities will be open with public health measures in place
  • Workplaces
  • Specified outdoor community events
  • Regional boundary restrictions will not apply.

There will be no limits under Green or Orange if vaccination certificates are used for:

  • Hospitality
  • Gatherings (for example weddings, places of worship, marae)
  • Events (indoor/outdoor)
  • Close contact businesses
  • Gyms

Restrictions will apply for those business or organisations not requesting proof of vaccination. Find out more about these restrictions on the Unite against Covid-19 website


  • Public facilities — open with up to 100 people, based on 1m distancing
  • Retail — open with capacity limits based on 1m distancing
  • Workplaces — working from home encouraged
  • ECEs, schools, and kura are open with public health measures
  • Specified outdoor community events — allowed with capacity limits
  • Regional boundary restrictions will apply.

Under Red, restrictions will be in place even if vaccination certificates are used.

Public health measures will remain in place

Testing, contact tracing and isolation will continue as key tools to minimise any spread of the virus.

Localised lockdowns will still be an option if there is a rapid growth in cases. There may still be a need to use wider lockdowns, similar to the measures in Alert Level 3 or 4. 

To shift between levels, the following will be considered:

  • vaccination coverage
  • capacity of the health and disability system
  • testing, contact tracing and case management capacity, and
  • the transmission of COVID-19 within the community, including its impact on key populations.
  • More information will be released in late November.

More information about the Covid-19 Protection Framework.  

About Mason Head

Content Creator and Publication Lead at Eldernet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.