MIL-OSI New Zealand: What is the traffic light system? Your questions answered

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Source: New Zealand Labour Party

For almost two years, we’ve relied on the alert levels to keep Kiwis safe. Thanks to the hard work of the team of five million, we’ve seen fewer hospitalisations and deaths than many other countries, our economy is strong and we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world.

With the arrival of Delta, the game has changed, so our strategy needs to change too. The new framework, also known as the traffic light system, will keep New Zealanders safe while ensuring we can enjoy summer with fewer disruptions and more certainty.

Ahead of this week’s shift to the new COVID-19 Protection Framework, we’ve answered some of the most common questions below, but make sure to check out covid19.govt.nz for detailed guidance.

What is the COVID Protection Framework?

The framework, also known as the traffic light system, is our new way of managing COVID-19. It’s designed to keep Kiwis safe as we carefully reopen, by supporting our new strategy of minimising and protecting against COVID.

The new framework is set up a little like a traffic light, with three settings: Red, Orange and Green.

Red is the highest setting, used when COVID poses the most risk in the community, and Green is the lowest setting. Different regions across Aotearoa can be at different settings, with no regional borders in place. You can see a simple graphic of the system here.

How will it keep us safe?

The new framework has a number of requirements at each setting to keep our communities safe. This includes things that will be familiar from the alert level system, such as wearing face coverings in some places and scanning in wherever we go.

However, across all settings of the new framework, vaccine passes are now a key part of our plan. They’ll ensure our communities, workplaces and events are safe, adding an extra layer of protection for people who can’t be vaccinated, like young children.

No matter what setting your region is at, people using a My Vaccine Pass will be able to visit cafes, restaurants and bars, attend events and gatherings like weddings and funerals, visit close contact businesses like hairdressers, and go to the gym.

Businesses, events and organisations that don’t use My Vaccine Pass will have to follow tighter restrictions – and some won’t be able to open or go ahead at the Orange and Red settings. This will keep people safe and shield our health system.

Why is vaccination such an important part of this framework?

The vaccine is a really important part of this plan because it provides an extra layer of protection. With high rates of vaccination and the use of vaccination passes, we can keep spaces low-risk, reduce transmission, and protect our most vulnerable as well as our hospitals and medical facilities. For this to work, we need as many people as possible to be fully vaccinated.

Under the new system, if you’re not fully vaccinated or you haven’t got around to getting a My Vaccine Pass, there will be everyday things you miss out. If you’re fully vaccinated and have a pass, you’ll be able to do more of what you enjoy. With the protection of the vaccine – alongside a robust test-and-trace system, public health behaviours like masking up and scanning in, and our ability to adjust settings depending on risk – we’ll be able to keep Kiwis safe.

Will household bubbles be a part of this system?

Under the COVID Protection Framework, you’ll need to stay in your household bubble if you’ve been asked to self-isolate. Otherwise, there’ll be no need to stick to a bubble. You’ll be able to hold gatherings in your private home, with different size limits depending on what setting you’re at and if your guests are fully vaccinated. You might want to discuss with your whānau or flatmates whether you’d like to have any house policy on vaccinations, though, to ensure everyone feels safe.

Are lockdowns still going to be used?

The stability of the traffic lights replaces the sudden lockdowns and restrictions of alert levels. Local and targeted lockdowns could still be used under the new framework, but our high vaccination rates mean lockdowns are no longer our main line of defence against COVID. This means businesses can continue to operate and people can plan summer holidays with more certainty.

Why do we need to change our approach?

For the last two years, elimination and the alert levels have served us well and kept us safe. But with Delta now here, we need to change our strategy. Our decisive move to Alert Level 4 in August slowed the spread of the virus and bought us time to drive up vaccination rates. Now we’re able to safely take the next step.

Thanks to our high vaccination rates, we can move to an approach that protects our communities while ensuring businesses can get on with the job, big events can go ahead with more certainty, and people can make summer plans with confidence. The new framework will minimise the spread of COVID-19 and protect our communities.

What setting is my region at?

Regional settings are determined based on community transmission, vaccination rates, and health system capacity. As we move into the new framework, we’re taking a careful and considered approach to keep Kiwis safe over the summer period.

From 3 December, Northland, Auckland, Taupō and Rotorua Lakes Districts, Kawerau, Whakatane, Ōpōtiki Districts, Gisborne District, Wairoa District, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu Districts are at Red. The rest of the country is at Orange. You can see a map of our regional settings and detailed advice about what this means for your community at covid19.govt.nz.

What does the new framework mean for my business?

Under the new framework, businesses will enjoy more opportunities, and events will be able to go ahead with greater certainty.

You can see more detailed guidance on what the traffic light system means for your sector or company here. If you’re a business owner trying to figure out whether your workplace might require employees to be vaccinated, visit the Worksafe website.

What is My Vaccine Pass?

My Vaccine Pass is official proof that you are either fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption for vaccination. It will enable you to enjoy the extra freedoms that come with the COVID-19 Protection Framework. The pass is free and issued by the Ministry of Health. It gives you access to places that require proof of vaccination under the new framework and will help reduce the risk of the virus spreading while we all enjoying a Kiwi summer.

How do I get a My Vaccine Pass?

Once you are fully vaccinated, sign up to My COVID Record to see your vaccination status and request a pass. Your My Vaccine Pass will include your name, date of birth and a QR code. You can save this pass on a digital device, like your phone, or print a physical copy.  

If you have a temporary medical exemption, you can call 0800 222 478 to request a My Vaccine Pass. You may be asked a few things to confirm your identity, such as your name and date of birth. 

What if I don’t have a smart phone, computer, or internet access?

People without a smartphone or access to a computer can call 0800 222 478 to request a My Vaccine Pass. You will need to have a National Health Index (NHI) ready or may be asked a few things to confirm your identity – such as name and date of birth. Someone can call on your behalf, but they must have your permission.

For those who would rather deal with someone face-to-face, certain pharmacies are currently assisting customers with getting a vaccine pass. Locations of participating pharmacies are listed on healthpoint.co.nz.

How does our international border fit into this?

Earlier this month, we announced the next steps in our plan to reconnect New Zealanders with the world. This includes carefully reopening the border in three stages next year.

For the rest of the year, MIQ will continue to be used for all travellers entering New Zealand (barring the small number going through our Self-Isolation Pilot).

From January 2022, we’ll be ensuring more people can come to New Zealand without the need to enter MIQ, in a way that minimises the risk of travellers bringing more COVID into the country.

This will start with New Zealand citizens travelling from Australia. Arrivals will need to self-isolate for seven days upon arrival and meet testing requirements.

MIQ will remain a requirement for travellers considered to be high-risk.This pathway includes unvaccinated New Zealand citizens, people who have been in a very high-risk country in the past 14 days, people vaccinated with an unrecognised vaccine, and people who test positive on arrival.

Read more about this careful, staggered approach here.

Is it safe to change our border settings?

The vaccination and testing requirements will provide layers of protection, reducing the risk of arrivals bringing additional COVID into the community. Most arrivals already report being fully vaccinated – and it’s compulsory for all non-New Zealand citizens to be vaccinated before they travel. Testing will help to identify any cases before they enter the community.

We’re confident that the risk of COVID coming across the border is manageable. Nevertheless, the emergence of new variants oversees is a reminder of why our careful and considered approach is so important. We’re continuing to monitor the global situation, adjusting our border settings as required to keep Kiwis safe.


For further details on our new approach to managing COVID-19, you can read more about the COVID Protection Framework or watch the Prime Minister’s announcement of the framework.

MIL OSI New Zealand News