Regions mulled for green traffic light revealed

Author
John Weekes, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 9 Dec 2021, 8:54PM
Health officials at one point told Dr Ashley Bloomfield large tracts of the country could enter the new pandemic response at the least restrictive green setting. (Photo / Pool)
Health officials at one point told Dr Ashley Bloomfield large tracts of the country could enter the new pandemic response at the least restrictive green setting. (Photo / Pool)

Regions mulled for green traffic light revealed

Author
John Weekes, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 9 Dec 2021, 8:54PM

Concerns about pockets of low vaccination rates and active Covid-19 cases stopped the South Island, Wellington, and two regions from entering the traffic light system at green.

The Herald yesterday revealed public health officials at one stage wanted some regions to start the new response model at the least restrictive green setting.

National Party MP Chris Bishop today asked Minister for Covid-19 response Chris Hipkins which regions these were.

A vaccine pass is scanned before entry to a Viaduct bar in Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig

Hipkins said the South Island, Wellington DHB areas, Hawkes Bay and MidCentral (between greater Wellington and Whanganui) were the regions.

That was the preliminary view of the Ministry of Health's Covid-19 protection framework assessment committee.

"However, the assessment committee had specific concerns about the number of areas with lower vaccination status, particularly for Māori, and also active cases in several DHBs outside of Auckland," Hipkins said.

Because of that, the committee then called for a more restrictive setting, with every place at orange except for Auckland and Northland.

Hipkins said the advice was provided to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) for inclusion in a Cabinet paper ministers would then consider.

The minister said he'd frequently been in touch with director-general of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield about the pandemic response and advice.

The Herald yesterday reported on the preliminary advice officials sent to Bloomfield.

Advice was outlined in Bloomfield's affidavit to the Waitangi Tribunal, which was examining if the pandemic response and traffic light system was compatible with Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Bishop after Question Time said it would have been sensible for the South Island and the regions mentioned to enter the framework at green.

"The Government's application of the criteria for each colour setting has always been opaque and unclear," Bishop added.

National's Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop says New Zealanders need to know what precise criteria are for a region to be at red, orange or green. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"Some regions such as Auckland are at red even though that is meant to be for when hospitalisations are unsustainable. In the Prime Minister's own words that isn't the case, [but] Auckland is at red anyway."

Some health officials also voiced concerns the traffic light system's start in early December could put vulnerable Māori at greater risk.

That warning was outlined in a ministry paper on November 24, two days after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had announced the new system.

Ardern ultimately took a more cautious stance than the ministry.

Cabinet decided to put Auckland, Northland, and several districts from Whanganui northeast to Gisborne in red, and everywhere else in orange.