‘It’s a breath of fresh air’


Masks are gone for most occasions, the Covid-19 traffic light system has been retired and the last of the government vaccine mandates are set to be scrapped in two weeks’ time.

After two years of pandemic related restrictions — border closures, lockdowns, Covid-19 traffic lights, mask wearing and mandates — Covid-19 is set to no longer be the dominant factor in our lives.

The changes had been met with mixed response online, but on site at many Central Otago businesses, masks already appeared to be a thing of the past.

President of Hospitality New Zealand Central Otago, Glen Christiansen, who is also general manager of The Gate Hospitality and Tourism Centre in Cromwell, welcomed a clarity to regulations.

‘‘I think it had worn its natural path,’’ he said.

‘‘It takes away indecision and will clear up people’s perceptions of what the rules are.’’

He said the centre’s liquor store, as a retail outlet, had required masks to be worn but staff could not ask to see exemptions.

‘‘It will remove that angst and anxiety around what to enforce, when to enforce,’’ he said.

‘‘We are a customer-service based industry. We just want to provide good customer service.’’

La Touch owner Juliet Kavanagh said she had some happy staff now masks were no longer a requirement. Mask-wearing was not new for the Cromwell-based beauty therapist as some treatments required staff to wear masks, she said.

‘‘I do have the public to think about, as we are in close proximity.’’

However, she hoped the change would be result in people feeling less angst and aggression.

While she had been lucky enough not to experience it herself, many of her clients who worked across a variety of industries had been on the receiving end of negativity.

‘‘I would like to think it could be a breath of fresh air for everyone who was getting uptight with [mask wearing].”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the change in approach to Covid-19 at a media briefing on Monday, citing falling case numbers and hospitalisations, high vaccination rates and increased access to anti›viral medicines as cause.

‘‘Today, 927 days into this pandemic, we’ve reached a major milestone in our journey with Covid-19. Today, Cabinet has determined that based on public health advice, we are able to remove the traffic light system and with that decision claim back the certainty we have all lost over the last three years,’’ Ms Ardern told media.

Masks are now only required to be worn when visiting healthcare, GPs and aged residential care facilities — although some workplaces and marae may choose to continue with their use.

The seven-day isolation period for household contacts of people who test positive for Covid-19 has also been scrapped.

The last of the controversial Government enforced vaccine mandates come to an end at 11.59pm on September 26 with health and disability workers able to return to work.

The mandates came in to force in November last year, starting with teachers and other educators, along with health and disability workers before being rolled out nationwide as a requirement for gatherings, visiting restaurants and many workplaces.

They had been a driving factor in the 23-day occupation of Parliament grounds in Wellington this year. Thousands of people from throughout the country attended the protests, which was forcibly ended by police.

New Zealand’s borders are now fully open with travellers no longer needing to be vaccinated to enter the country.