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The managed isolation system at New Zealand's border is being dismantled for fully vaccinated Kiwis and travellers will be able to bypass it from early next year.
It comes as officials announced there are 215 Covid-19 cases today. Today's cases mean the number of Delta outbreak infections has now surpassed 5000.
One hundred and eighty-one cases are in Auckland, 18 in Waikato and three in Northland.
Eighty-seven people are in hospital with the virus, all are in Auckland apart from two.
Oo vaccination status of those who had died with Covid, of the 15 deaths, 10 were unvaxxed, two had had one dose and three were fully vaccinated, director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said.
As vaccination rates rise, so will cases, hospitalisations and deaths will rise among the vaccinated, Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield emphasised that a number of people hopsitalised in the outbreak were children under 12.
No more MIQ for vaxed Kiwis
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said from next year it will be easier for fully vaccinated Kiwis to return to New Zealand.
From January 17 next year, fully vaccinated New Zealanders will be able to travel from Australia without having to go through MIQ, Hipkins said. They will still need to isolate at home for seven days, he said.
From February 13, fully vaccinated Kiwis can travel from all over countries, Hipkins said.
From the end of April, all other fully vaccinated travellers can come into NZ without needing to go into MIQ.
Travel in 2022 won't be the same as pre-2020, Hipkins warned.
All travellers will require a negative test, proof of vaccination and declaration they haven't been in very high-risk countries. They will also require regular testing after they have arrived.
A phased approach to reconnecting NZ to the world was the safest approach to protect vulnerable communities and the health system, Hipkins said
The three steps constitute a new "medium risk pathway".
Those which don't fit this pathway will go through MIQ for seven days and then self-isolation for three days.
On very high-risk countries, Indonesia, Pakistan, India and Brazil can travel to New Zealand.
Papua New Guinea is still under the very high-risk classification.
On not allowing people to come back from Aussie before Xmas, Hipkins said this was about easing restrictions in a safe way.
He referenced Auckland's shift to the traffic light system and then the dropping of the boundary around the city, both of which would open up the country to risk.
"We want to stay in that strong position as much as we can," Hipkins said on the good impact vaccination had had on case numbers in Auckland
The Government's approach was about progressively managing risk and not opening up multiple pathways for risk.
Hipkins said he understood the trauma some families were going through with these restrictions but wouldn't comment if any of his family were impacted.
Bloomfield said the risk of vaccinated people coming into the country was looked into carefully and there had been agreement with experts that there was still risk
Each one of those travellers could start its own outbreak, Bloomfield said
It was important to bed in the processes around travel for Aucklanders domestically before opening up to overseas travellers more, Bloomfield said
Earlier in the week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said more guidance on the traffic lights system was due this week, including advice specific to sectors such as retail, schools and sporting events.
Hipkins and Bloomfield will host a press conference from the Beehive at 1pm, which you can watch live here.
From tomorrow hairdressers in Auckland can reopen using appointments to trial the new vaccination certificate system.
All staff must be vaccinated, and they can only accept vaccinated customers.
Meanwhile an increasing number of primary school-aged children and younger are contracting Covid, as the total number of active cases in this country's Delta outbreak approaches 5000.
There are 4828 active cases of Covid in New Zealand - and 36 per cent of them are aged 19 or under.
Close to one in five - 18.5 per cent - of cases are in children 9 years old or younger, up from 12.7 per cent at the start of September.
Parliament is sitting in urgency to rush through the law changes needed to allow businesses to implement the vaccines certificate system.
That law change includes allowing businesses to require staff to get vaccinated if they work in roles where they interact with the public.
Workplaces considered high-risk include hospitality, events, gatherings, close contact businesses and gyms - mandates are expected to cover about 40 per cent of the workforce overall.
Ministers have also signalled that more details on the easing of international borders and MIQ requirements are expected soon. Hipkins and the PM have dampened down any expectation of changes ahead of Christmas, saying easing will be done in progressive steps from the first three months of next year.
Hipkins told RNZ yesterday that while the trans-Tasman bubble was not likely to resume in the same form as before, he would expect to see a lot more travel between the two countries from next year.
On Monday, Ardern announced the country would move to the traffic light system on December 3.
Auckland will start off at the most restricted "red" setting, because of the ongoing community outbreak. The settings for most other regions will not be announced until November 29, when Cabinet reviews vaccination rates.
Ardern has promised Cabinet would be "pragmatic" if a region's rates of fully vaccinated people were getting close to the 90 per cent mark but it was likely lower vaccinated regions, especially if they were also summer hotspots, would be at red.
Details on what it will take for Auckland to move from red to orange were not likely this week.
Hipkins told RNZ that the Government would look at case numbers, rate of hospitalisation, contact tracing capability, and the nature of communities the cases are in.
More details will be revealed next week.
"At this point, when we move to red it opens things up quite substantially in Auckland, and we do have to be aware that with that opening up comes additional risk. So we need to see what that does in terms of transmission and so on.
"What we don't want to do is get to the point where we move too fast and end up with an outbreak that we then couldn't get back under control."
Cases were at a "manageable level", and needed to stay that way, Hipkins said.
For more information visit covid19.govt.nz.
This article was first published on the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.