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Preparing to live with Covid-19


New Zealand enters the next phase in our Covid-19 pandemic response 10 days from now. It’s the key “opening up” stage where can take advantage of the level of immunity afforded by high vaccination coverage, and start living with this virus and the disease it causes — while taking measures to suppress it.

Here in Te Tairawhiti it is clear that we will enter the traffic light system next Friday in red, as though we are already experiencing an outbreak and our hospital is under pressure, due to our lower vaccination rate — which is now 73 percent double-dosed, compared to 83 percent nationally; for Maori we are at 62 percent double-dosed.

Being at red means hospitality and events will be limited to 100 people once again, and now all will need to be fully vaccinated. Working from home is also encouraged, although this seems unneccessary until there is actual transmission in our region.

That is not far away. Multiple DHB areas have had cases seeded from the Auckland outbreak lately. Covid cases have been reported in both our neighbouring regions lately.

If Covid doesn’t reach us via one of these clusters or an infected person with a travel exemption, it is about to start travelling the length and breadth of the country anyway.

Twenty-two days from now, Aucklanders will be able to travel domestically if they are vaccinated or have had a negative test within 72 hours of departure. As much as these two requirements reduce risk, December 15 is clearly the date from which Covid-19 will become endemic in New Zealand.

Starting out at the red setting of the new protection framework will have an economic and social impact on our region, although hopefully it will be shortlived as the local vaccination effort — which has targeted 90 percent for first doses by December 12 (we are at 85 percent now) — continues to lift immunisation coverage.

For unvaccinated people, the red and orange settings of the new system will likely feel like an Alert Level 3 lockdown. Events, restaurants, cafes and hairdressers will not be able to accept you; the minority of these that opt not to use vaccine passes won’t be able to open under red and orange — except, in the case of restaurants and cafes, to offer takeaways.

Yes, this is a two-tier society we are entering, and yes it is divisive. However, it will help protect us all from this highly-transmissible virus, it will continue to incentivise hesitant people to get vaccinated, and it should be a temporary measure as we learn to live with Covid-19.

  1. Simin Williams says:

    “…and it should be a temporary measure as we learn to live with Covid-19.” Temporary till when Jeremy?

    1. Aimee says:

      Simin, how long is a piece of string?