Caucus op-ed for Auckland MPs:
With the shift to the COVID-19 Protection Framework this week, we know many of us will be looking forward to more opportunities, from meeting for coffee with friends at our local café to heading to our favourite holiday spots over summer. As we prepare to take this next step in our plan, we want to say a huge thank you to everyone in Auckland. Together, we’ve stayed home to save lives, kept our community safe by getting out and getting vaccinated in record numbers, and have each given up a lot to protect all of New Zealand. These efforts have played such an important part in enabling us to carefully reopen – so thank you. Now, we’re moving to a new way of managing COVID-19. For almost two years, our approach has served us well. We’re entering this new phase better placed than many other countries, with high vaccination rates, a strong economy, and fewer hospitalisations and deaths. The entire country is on track to reach 90% fully vaccinated in December – one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. Here in Auckland we have already reached the 90% of eligible people being fully vaccinated. That is an amazing response, and I thank all of you who have stepped up.However, we’ve seen overseas that Delta has changed the game. Many countries that recently removed restrictions are now putting them back in place as they face fourth and fifth waves. Other new variants are an added reminder of why our careful and considered approach is so important.Our plan will keep New Zealanders safe, while ensuring we can enjoy summer with fewer disruptions and more certainty. Businesses can safely reopen, big events can go ahead, and people can plan ahead with confidence, because our high vaccination rates mean lockdowns are no longer our main line of defence against COVID.Here in Auckland, we’re moving initially into the Red setting. This means we can do more of things we enjoy, like going out to bars and restaurants, getting a haircut, or working out at the gym, so long as we have our vaccine passes. My Vaccine Pass is your official proof of vaccination, and your ticket to make the most of all our community has to offer. If you haven’t already sorted your pass, you can request it now by visiting mycovidrecord.nz or by calling 0800 222 478. Getting your pass will also be important to ensure you can travel across the Auckland boundary from 15 December. If you don’t have a valid vaccine pass, you’ll need a negative pre-departure test to be able to cross the boundary. With these precautions in place, we’ll be able to spend our summer holidays with family and friends, safely. This is a significant shift, but we have a plan. You can plan, too. Get vaccinated, get your My Vaccine Pass, and keep following health guidance. This has been a difficult period, but we have huge opportunities ahead of us. We hope you’re all looking forward to connecting with loved ones over summer, as we transition into a new way of managing COVID-19.