With Auckland past the peak of Omicron and the rest of New Zealand approaching that point, Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon and Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop say the Government should take immediate steps to get New Zealand back to normality.
"Life has been tough for Kiwis these past couple years. It's time for us to move on and start thinking positively about the future Kiwis can build for themselves and their families," Mr Luxon says.
"Kiwis have done the right thing – over 95 per cent of us are vaccinated and, importantly, 85 per cent of people in every DHB aged over 60, our most vulnerable age group, are boosted.
"As we come through the peak of Omicron, it's time to phase out restrictions and allow people to get back to normal. This is particularly important for businesses, which have often borne the brunt of restrictions like gathering limits, vaccine passes and scanning in."
Mr Bishop says the Government should immediately:
· drop all scanning requirements for businesses and scrap vaccine passes for all but large indoor events;
· get rid of all vaccine mandates for young people aged under 18, and;
· move to a five-day isolation period.
Once the border reopens to Australians on April 13, the Government should then:
· scrap the Traffic Light Framework altogether;
· abolish pre-departure testing, and;
· phase out all vaccine mandates, with health workers to be phased out last.
"Vaccine passes and mandates made sense under Delta. They don't under Omicron.
"The public health rationale for vaccine passes just isn't there anymore, and they are now putting unjustified limits on people's rights. It will be logistically impossible to apply the vaccine pass system to Australians anyway, and we'll be a month on from the Omicron peak by then.
"The mandates have created a real sense of division in New Zealand. Many unvaccinated people have been excluded from society – 13-year-olds who can't play rugby with their mates, people who have lost jobs, and people unable to go out to dinner.
"The Government's instinct should be to remove restrictions on normal life as soon as they're no longer justified, not to hang on to them until there is zero risk. Of course, if the risk changes in the future we can always put the Framework back in place.
"Isolation periods for people who get Covid-19 and their household contacts will still be important to limit spread, as well as rapid antigen tests which National has campaigned on for months. Mask-wearing will remain important indoors.
"But overall, we need to send the message that life is returning to normal."