Businesses can keep them if they want, but mandated vaccine passes will be a thing of the past for most come April 4 

Vaccine pass and scanning requirements are set to be scrapped and all outdoor gathering limits removed, the Prime Minister has announced. 

Indoor gathering limits will also increase to 200 under the red light setting, and the traffic light system will remain to help manage any future outbreaks.

Jacinda Ardern said this morning that as of 11.59pm on April 4, the Government will drop the vaccine pass mandates. The passes had served their purpose in slowing the spread of Covid-19, and given the Omicron wave appeared to have peaked, it was time to retire them. The red light setting would be reviewed the same day. 

Most vaccine mandates will also be scrapped, except for health and disability, aged care, corrections and border workforces. Businesses and events will still be able to use them if they choose to, but they will no longer be mandated, she said.

“Like many other countries we are retaining a small number of mandates targeted at keeping our Covid-19 frontline staff safe and to ensure our most vulnerable, like those in aged care facilities or those with disabilities, are protected from the virus,” Ardern said.

“I know for many this part of our defence against Covid-19 was one of the hardest. But mandates meant we reached the levels of vaccination needed to prevent the devastating outbreaks seen across the world.”

Meanwhile, the changes to gathering limits would come into force this Friday night. 

Ardern said data shows hospitality had a relatively low secondary attack rate of 6.7 percent, which was backed up by other research.

It was the view of public health officials hospitality gathering limits can be increased in the red setting from 100 to 200 without having a significant impact on the health system, particularly when retaining the seated and separated rules.

Ardern said masks were still vital, and while people didn’t like them, a study from the British Medical Journal late last year showed mask-wearing reduced new cases by 53 percent.

Cabinet had been seeking advice on the mandates, passes, the traffic light system, and all Covid-19 restrictions and made decisions in their Monday meeting.

Opposition parties National and ACT had urged the Government to immediately remove passes and mandates, with the traffic light system designed for Delta, not Omicron. Some businesses welcomed those suggestions, saying they would open their doors to the unvaccinated.

Experts have warned however that now – right when the most cases are being experienced – is not the time to be lowering restrictions, though the settings should be updated. Health officials say hospitalisations and deaths can be expected to remain high, and while the peak appears to have passed in Auckland other regions are lagging behind.

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