Aotearoa New Zealand COVID-19 Timeline

This page contains Table 1: Aotearoa New Zealand COVID-19 Timeline. This table aims to provide a timeline of Aotearoa New Zealand’s public policy response to COVID-19. The timeline is updated regularly (the timeline was last updated on 5 July 2022).

A methodology outlining how entries are written, the themes and the allocation of a timeline entry to a theme is explained here.
While some timeline entries relate to more than one theme, we have chosen to assign only one main theme to each entry. Importantly, this timeline focusses on New Zealand events rather than international events.

Citations are included below each entry. A pdf of the source document can be found in the following places:

  • For events without an asterisk, references are on the Nation Dates  website.
  • For events marked with an asterisk (largely after 7 October 2020), see the page here.
  • In the few cases where we have added additional information to an event pre 7 October 2020 (being the last date in the Nation Dates timeline), events are marked with a hashtag. This means if you want to find all the reference for these events you need to look for them on both the Nation Dates  website and the page here.

The events have been grouped by themes. The list of themes are as follows:

  1. Aged residential care
  2. Alert level
  3. Border control [Note: the Trans-Tasman bubble and Pacific bubble are treated as separate themes]
  4. Community outbreak
  5. COVID-19 origins
  6. Elimination
  7. Financial support [Note: this includes the Wage Subsidy Scheme]
  8. Governance
  9. Health Care Services
  10. Māori
  11. Mental Health
  12. National reserve supply [Note: this includes the composition]
  13. Pacific bubble
  14. PPE
  15. Surveillance [Note: refers to MOHs review of the characteristics of the disease and the effectiveness of the response] 
  16. Testing [Note: includes PCR and RAT testing]
  17. Track and tracing
  18. Trans-Tasman bubble
  19. Vaccination
  20. Traffic light
  21. Treatment


Publications and Reports on Pandemics
In addition to the table below, the Institute has created two further tables. Both tables are found here and are searchable by are listed by topic, name and date.

  • Table 2: MOH Pandemic Publications
    This table contains a list of Ministry of Health (MOH) pandemic publications on the MOH website since 2010.
  • Table 3: Independent Reviews on the New Zealand Government’s Response to COVID-19
    This table contains a list of reports, prepared by independent individuals or bodies.

Table 1: Aotearoa New Zealand COVID-19 Timeline

5 Jul 2022*Omicron subvariant BA.2.75 detected in New Zealand for the first time
The Omicron subvariant BA.2.75 is detected in New Zealand for the first time, with two cases confirmed as having the variant. The Ministry of Health states that, at this stage, there is no evidence that BA.2.75 requires a shift in public health settings in place to manage other Omicron variants. Evidence on the variant’s transmissibility, immune evasiveness and severity is still preliminary and emerging. BA.2.75 has characteristics that may enhance its ability to evade immunity, similar to the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants, and there is some early evidence overseas that it may be slightly more transmissible than BA.2. There is no current evidence that it leads to more severe disease, although the evidence is at a very early stage.
(Daalder, 2022c; MOH, 2022q)
5 Jul 2022*Experts suggest next wave of cases is starting
A total of 9,629 community cases are reported and various experts state that the next wave is starting, and some suggest reinstating previous COVID-19 protocols, such as moving to the red traffic light setting.
(Daalder, 2022c; MOH, 2022q)
Community outbreak
2 Jul 2022*Vaccine mandate for border and corrections is removed
On 28 June 2022, newly appointed COVID-19 Response Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall announces that the Government has ended the requirement for border workers and Corrections staff to be fully vaccinated. As of 23 June 2022, 100% of Corrections staff in prisons and 97% of active border workers were fully vaccinated. The Vaccination Order remains in place for health and disability workers as they continue to have close interactions with people who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19. The settings for health and disability workers are reviewed regularly.
(Verrall, 2022d)
30 Jun 2022*Updated advice for people who develop symptoms after having had COVID-19
The Ministry of Health updates its advice on re-testing, stating people need to re-test if they develop symptoms more than 28 days after a previous infection. The previous advice was that people did not need to re-test if they had tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days. The Ministry states the latest evidence shows that getting reinfected with COVID-19 can occur within a short period of time, and reinfection will become more likely as new variants spread among the community. If a person develops new COVID-19 symptoms and it is 29 days or more since their last infection, they should take a RAT. If they test positive, this will be considered a reinfection and they must follow the COVID-19 isolation guidelines. If the test is negative and symptoms continue, the person should take another RAT in 48 hours. Household contacts must also isolate, unless they have either had COVID-19 in the last 90 days and recovered, or have been a household contact in the last 10 days.
(MOH, 2022p)
28 Jun 2022*Unions claim that New Zealand is 4000 nurses short
Unions claim that New Zealand is 4000 nurses short. This is despite a letter to Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) sent on 28 July 2021, from the representative of all DHBs in New Zealand, stating that all DHBs were experiencing significant challenges to maintain safe levels of services, which were being exacerbated by workforce supply challenges, and that some hospitals were at ‘code red’. Further, the letter warned there was risk of existing overseas-trained employees leaving due to an inability to secure their futures as residents of New Zealand. The DHB heads asked for current overseas-trained staff to be given a ‘direct and prompt path to residency’ and overseas health professionals facilitated to enter New Zealand as required to ‘avert a crisis in the health sector’.
(Neilson, 2022b)
Health Care Services
28 Jun 2022*Second booster available to specific groups
A second COVID-19 booster dose is made available to all people aged 50 years and over; health, aged-care and disability-care workers aged over 30; people aged 16 and over who have a medical condition that increases the risk of severe breakthrough COVID-19 illness; and people aged 16 and over who live with disability with significant or complex health needs or multiple comorbidities. There is a six-month minimum gap between doses. Those recommended to receive priority for the second booster are: people aged 65 and over; Māori and Pacific peoples aged 50 and over; residents of aged care and disability care facilities; and severely immunocompromised people. If a person has had COVID-19, it is recommended they wait three months after testing positive before getting vaccinated.
(Little, 2022b; MOH, 2022o)
23 Jun 2022*Chris Hipkins releases public apology for false statements regarding an MIQ applicant
In February 2022 , then COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins made false statements about a journalist who attempted to get an emergency MIQ spot on the basis that she was living in Qatar, was pregnant and unmarried (illegal in Qatar) and had fled to Afghanistan. In March 2022, Hipkins formally apologised to the journalist in a letter, but public acknowledgment is not released until 23 June 2022, after the Government decides not to appeal the High Court case (Grounded Kiwis Group Incorporated v Minister of Health [2022]), which held aspects of MIQ to be a breach of NZBORA. Hipkins apologised for incorrectly stating that the journalist had been offered consular assistance, and for releasing personal information (without her consent) about when she arrived in Afghanistan .
(Neilson, 2022a)
Border control
22 Jun 2022*Variants of Concern framework released
The Ministry of Health releases Aotearoa New Zealand’s Strategic Framework for COVID-19 Variants of Concern. The Ministry expects that a new variant of concern will emerge within weeks or months. The strategy builds on the plans and enabling systems used over the last two years. It identifies the ‘contextual factors, range of indicators, and baseline and response measures required to ensure that we are prepared to respond to the emergence of a new variant of concern’. It consists of a list of capabilities that will be useful in tackling any COVID-19 strain, including testing and contact tracing capacity. It also details processes for evaluating the risks from new variants and lays out five potential scenarios. As the introduction of new variants into New Zealand is difficult to predict, the plan is more broad than detailed, as different variants will have different characteristics (e.g. transmissibility, resistance to vaccines or severity of illness). One predominant concern is that officials may not have any warning of a new variant (from observing overseas), as they did with Delta and Omicron.
(Daalder, 2022b; MOH, 2022n; RNZ, 2022n)
20 Jun 2022*Pre-departure test requirement for those travelling to New Zealand removed
From 11:59 pm, travellers to New Zealand no longer need a COVID-19 pre-departure test. COVID-19 Response Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall states that around 90% of international arrivals have been undertaking required testing once they are in the country, with only a 2–3% positivity rate, and the challenges pre-departure tests pose to visitors are now no longer outweighed by the public health benefits.
(Verrall, 2022c)
Border control
20 Jun 2022*MBIE reveals $800 million was spent on MIQ lease agreements
Data released to Radio New Zealand shows the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) spent nearly $800 million in 18 months on lease agreements for MIQ. The amount MBIE paid each hotel varied significantly depending on the hotel, its location and occupancy. Hotels used as MIQ facilities earned an average of $1.3 million a month. As the hotels selected for MIQ needed to be near medical facilities, almost all were part of large multinational hotel chains, which has caused speculation that MIQ resulted in a large transfer of wealth from New Zealand to overseas tourism industries. The chief executive of the Hotel Council Aotearoa denies this, claiming that many foreign-branded hotels are New Zealand-owned, under franchise arrangements. At the end of the month the final three MIQ facilities will close.
(Todd, 2022)
Border control
20 Jun 2022*Ministry of Health apologises for duplicate text sent to 6000 people instructing them to isolate
The Ministry of Health notifies and apologises to approximately 6000 people who were sent a repeat text message, telling them that they had returned a positive COVID-19 test and needed to isolate. These personalised texts were received by people who tested positive within the previous 10 days, duplicating advice they had already received. The Ministry states the duplicate text was a result of a computer glitch over the weekend.
(MOH, 2022m)
3 Jun 2022*First cases of Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 reported in the community
Four cases of the Omicron subvariant BA.5 and one case of the subvariant BA.4 are found in the community, all based on whole genome sequencing of tests, with no clear link to the border. There are also seven cases of BA.2.12.1 reported in the community, from genome sequencing returned on 18 May 2022. These Omicron subvariants are prevalent overseas and have been detected at the border for many weeks. Their presence in the community is not unexpected and further cases are expected. Emerging data suggests BA.2.12.1 is marginally more transmissible than BA.2, the dominant subvariant currently circulating in New Zealand. There is some clinical data to suggest the BA.5 and BA.4 subvariants have increased transmissibility compared to BA.2, but no data suggesting they cause more severe illness.
(MOH, 2022l)
Community outbreak
24 May 2022*Updated My Vaccine Pass available for people who are up-to-date with vaccinations
An updated My Vaccine Pass is made available for anyone aged 12 and over who is up to date with their vaccinations, including boosters for those over 18. In early April 2022 the legal requirement for businesses to use My Vaccine Passes was removed. Some businesses may be voluntarily keeping My Vaccine Pass requirements as a condition of entry. An updated My Vaccine Pass will have an expiry date six months from the date of issue.
(Hipkins, 2022g)
27 Apr 2022*High Court ruling states MIQ system breached NZBORA
The judge in Grounded Kiwis Group Incorporated v Minister of Health [2022] holds that elements of the MIQ system were an unjustified breach of New Zealand citizens’ right of entry into New Zealand, affirmed by s 18(2) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA). Grounded Kiwis is a group that advocates for New Zealanders overseas who were impacted by the restrictions. The group challenged the restrictions between 1 September and 17 December 2021, particularly elements of the voucher system and the determination of emergency applications. The High Court finds that the MIQ system did not sufficiently allow individual circumstances to be considered and prioritised where necessary, and the mechanisms could not appropriately give effect to the right of citizens to enter; a more sophisticated system, which better prioritised those whose right to return was being unreasonably impacted, was reasonably available and would have met the Government’s public health strategy. COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins responds to the judgement, stating that MIQ was ‘always the least worst option’ to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand.
(Grounded Kiwis Group Incorporated v Minister of Health [2022]; High Court of New Zealand, 2022; Osborne, 2022)
Border control
22 Apr 2022*A person tests positive for the second time in 6 weeks
A 14-year-old with COVID-19 symptoms returns a positive RAT, after a positive PCR test in February. His GP suggests it might be part of the same infection, or he could have caught another variant. Current Ministry guidelines give a three-month exemption for household contacts after testing positive, because it is assumed that the risk of reinfection within three months of having Omicron is very low.
(Henry, 2022)
Community outbreak
14 Apr 2022*Third treatment drug is approved by Medsafe
Medsafe approves Lagevrio, a COVID-19 treatment drug, for use in New Zealand. Lagevrio (200mg Molnupiravir capsules) is an anti-viral to be taken as a five-day course within five days of developing symptoms. It is indicated for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults who are at increased risk of progressing to severe disease, hospitalisation or death. People at increased risk include Māori and Pacific peoples, those with complex health needs, the elderly and unvaccinated, and people with disabilities. On 11 October 2021, New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world to secure a deal for Lagevrio, purchasing 60,000 doses.
(Medsafe, 2022; MOH, 2022k; New Zealand Gazette, 2022b; RNZ, 2022m)
13 Apr 2022*Ministry of Health requested RAT suppliers to prioritise Government orders
Emails released to the NZ Herald under the Official Information Act show the Ministry of Health asked suppliers to prioritise its orders of RATs over those of private businesses. In the case of one test manufacturer, the Ministry asked for the tests to be supplied ‘exclusively’ to the Government while it built up its stocks. This request was made after just 2% of the Ministry's orders for January and February from one supplier were confirmed delivered in late January 2022. In February 2022, a distributor claimed two-thirds of RATs ordered online had not arrived , as they had been requisitioned for Government stocks. The Ministry denied RATs were being requisitioned, but agreed that forward orders of RATS that were not already in New Zealand were being ‘consolidated’ by the Government.
(Coughlan, 2022a; 2022b)
13 Apr 2022*New Zealand moves to orange traffic light setting
At 11:59 pm, New Zealand moves down from red to orange under the COVID-19 Protection Framework. Under orange there are no indoor capacity limits and the seated-and-separated rule for hospitality venues is lifted. Face masks are still required for workers at public-facing indoor hospitality venues; retail stores; public facilities; public transport; taxis and rideshares like Uber; vet clinics; indoor areas of courts and tribunals; local and central government agencies; social services providers and police stations; NZ Post premises; and healthcare facilities. In schools, students and teachers will no longer have to wear masks.
(Hipkins, 2022f; NZ Herald, 2022g)
Traffic light
7 Apr 2022*Booster dose of Pfizer vaccine available for 16–17-year-olds Following Medsafe’s provisional approval, young people aged 16 and 17 can receive a free booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least six months after completing their primary course. The booster is particularly recommended for those at higher risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms and hospitalisation. This includes those who are immunocompromised or living with an immunocompromised family member, and Māori and Pacific youth.
(Hipkins, 2022e)
4 Apr 2022*Vaccine mandates narrowed
At 11:59 pm, government vaccine mandates are removed for police, Defence Force staff, education and those covered by My Vaccine Pass. The mandate remains in place for health and care workers, prison staff, and border workers. Workers still covered by the mandate include those who come into close contact with people who are likely to get seriously ill if they get COVID-19. Border workers, including those at MIQ, airports and maritime ports, must be vaccinated because they are likely to be exposed to new variants. Vaccines may still be mandated for certain roles within the police, Defence Force and Fire and Emergency if they work in an environment where vaccines are required, such as alongside paramedics or other health workers. Vaccine passes will no longer be required. On 30 March 2022, WorkSafe New Zealand issued guidance for employers stating that employer vaccination requirements should be used carefully, based on public health advice, and are not a suitable first response for managing COVID-19 in most workplaces. Employees who lost their jobs due to a requirement to get vaccinated will not have a right to get their job back.
(Employment New Zealand, 2022; Hipkins, 2022d; New Zealand Government, 2022m; NZ Herald, 2022f; WorkSafe New Zealand, 2022)
25 Mar 2022*Changes to traffic light settings
All outdoor gathering limits are removed from the traffic light system, and indoor gathering limits increase from a maximum of 100 to 200 under the red light setting. QR codes are no longer used to contact trace, with the exception of high-risk environments like aged care facilities or residential facilities for the vulnerable.
(RNZ, 2022l)
Traffic light
21 Mar 2022*Second-youngest person dies from COVID-19
The death of a person in their 20s is reported. They are the second-youngest person to die from COVID-19 in New Zealand. There are 1000 cases of COVID-19 in hospital, 14,463 new cases in the community and nine deaths reported.
(New Zealand Government, 2022l; NZ Herald, 2022e)
Community outbreak
20 Mar 2022*Order issued permitting critical health care workers exemption from isolation requirements
Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield issues a public health order which provides alternative self-isolation requirements for critical health care workers (HCWs) who are confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19. An asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic probable or confirmed case must stand down for three days and take a RAT on Day 3 and Day 4. If both are negative, the HCW may return to work on Day 4. A negative RAT will be required before any/each shift from the day the HCW returns to work, until Day 6. The default position for critical HCWs continuing to test positive is that if positive at Day 9, they may return to work on Day 11. In highly critical service continuity situations, if positive at Day 6, a HCW may return to work on Day 8. In critical situations where all other options have been exhausted, a HCW may return to work from Day 0 but only to work in a COVID-19 ward/unit/situation. The HCW is not under compulsion to work and must agree. Public transport for critical HCWs should only be used as a last resort if no other transport options are available.
(Bloomfield, 2022; MOH, 2022j)
Health Care Services
16 Mar 2022*Rapid antigen tests become widely available in schools and early learning centres
One million RATs are made available to schools, kura and early learning centres to give to symptomatic children, young people and staff, and the people in their households.
(New Zealand Government, 2022k)
11 Mar 2022*Isolation period for COVID-19 cases and household contacts reduced to seven days
On 9 March 2022, Minister for COVID-19 Response Chris Hipkins announced that from 11:59 pm on 11 March 2022, the isolation period for a COVID-19 case and their household contacts will be reduced from 10 days to seven days. Household contacts will need to have a RAT test on Day 3 and 7 of their isolation period or if they become symptomatic. If the result is positive, they must isolate for seven days from that point. Recovered cases will not need to self-isolate if they become a household contact within 90 days of testing positive (increased from 28 days). The change aims to balance effectively controlling the outbreak and the flow-on effect for business and essential goods and services.
(Hipkins, 2022b)
11 Mar 2022*Decision ordering vaccination of child released
In a dispute between two parents regarding the vaccination of their child, the Family Court finds that vaccination is in the child's best interests and orders the child to be vaccinated immediately. The child’s views are taken into account; vaccination is not mandatory for children.
(Holloway v Parsons [2022]; Wilkinson, 2022)
10 Mar 2022*Novavax vaccine available
From 10 March people aged 18 and older are able to book for vaccination with Novavax, the first protein-based COVID-19 vaccine in New Zealand. It requires two doses, with a three-week interval between doses. Minister for COVID-19 Response Chris Hipkins states that Pfizer remains the preferred COVID-19 vaccine in New Zealand. Only 39 sites nationwide are able to deliver Novavax. On 29 March 2022, the Ministry of Health reports that just 1,205 first doses and 143 second doses have been administered. The Director-General of Health states that tens of thousands of doses are set to expire in April.
(Hipkins, 2022b; MOH, 2022i; RNZ, 2022k)
8 Mar 2022*Omicron sub-variant surpasses original variant
Cases of Omicron sub-variant BA.2 outnumber original sub-variant BA.1 for the first time. BA.1 had been the prevalent sub-variant of Omicron circulating in New Zealand. This follows overseas trends, and is considered to be due to a likely transmission advantage of BA.2. BA.2 is nicknamed ‘stealth Omicron’ as it does not have the missing target gene of BA. Initial and unconfirmed estimates suggest BA.2 is 30–50% more contagious. Experts suggest that the widespread use of RATs and self-reporting means a higher likelihood of under-reporting, presenting an inaccurate picture of the progression of Omicron.
(Morton, 2022)
Community outbreak
8 Mar 2022*Number of new community cases reaches its peak
The Omicron outbreak reaches its peak as 23,894 new community cases of COVID-19 are reported –the highest ever number of daily cases. After this, cases begin to decline.
(MOH, 2022h; WHO, n.d.)
Community outbreak
2 Mar 2022*23-day protest at Parliament ends
After anti-vaccine-mandate protesters occupy Parliament for 23 days, police launch an operation to reclaim Parliament grounds. Throughout the day, many instances of violence take place as police remove protesters from the area. Protesters light fires, set off explosions and use weapons such as bricks and fire extinguishers against police. The Parliament playground slide, which cost $242,000, is burnt down by protesters. Police wear riot gear, administer pepper spray, use fire hoses on protesters and remove tents, barriers and signs. 500 police staff are involved in the operation, with 40 sustaining injuries, and eight requiring hospital treatment. By the evening, police have cleared Molesworth Street of all protester vehicles, towing 50 vehicles. The following day, police report 100 people have been arrested on charges including arson, grievous bodily harm, inciting violence, theft, assault, trespass and obstruction. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern signals there will be a review of the protest occupation at Parliament to determine if more could have been done to prevent it from happening. A fund established by Wellington City Council and the Government will allow businesses that lost revenue because of the occupation to access $1.2 million of relief funding. Businesses in the area surrounding Parliament that experienced a drop of 50% or more in their revenue during the occupation can apply for a one-off payment of up to $30,000. In May 2022, Wellington City Council reveals $335,000 was spent on the clean-up of Council land and property, and the police reveal they spent over $2.5 million on expenses including travel, accommodation, food, vehicles and equipment during the protest.
(Campbell, 2022; Green, 2022; Hewett & Sadler, 2022; New Zealand Police, 2022a; 2022b; RNZ, 2022j; Scotcher, 2022; Wakefield, 2022; WCC, n.d.)
1 Mar 2022*Second treatment drug is approved by Medsafe
Medsafe approves Paxlovid, a COVID-19 treatment drug, for use in New Zealand. Paxlovid comes in tablet form, to be taken over a five-day course within five days of developing symptoms. The drug is intended for adults aged 18 or older who do not require supplemental oxygen due to COVID-19 and are at increased risk of progression to hospitalisation or death. People at increased risk include Māori and Pacific peoples, those with complex health needs, the elderly and unvaccinated, and people with disabilities. On 31 March 2022, Minister of Health Andrew Little announces that 60,000 courses of Paxlovid have arrived, which will begin to be used the following week.
(Little, 2022a; Medsafe, 2022; MOH, 2022g; New Zealand Gazette, 2022a)
1 Mar 2022*Third COVID-19 vaccine, Novavax, approved
The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine will be available to people aged 18 and over who wish to have a different vaccine option. Novavax is not approved as a booster vaccine, unlike Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
(Hipkins, 2022a; MOH, 2022f)
25 Feb 2022*Ministry of Health releases guidance for critical workers and using RATs
As RATs are the primary means of testing under phase three of the Omicron response, the Ministry releases guidance for access to RATs by critical workers under the Close Contact Exemption Scheme (CCES). Phase Three no longer requires close contacts to isolate, but the CCES allows household contacts who are critical workers (who would otherwise be required to isolate) to continue working if they return a negative RAT . There are two models for accessing free RATs by critical workers : the first is centralised distribution accessed through employers (such as healthcare and emergency service workforces); and the second is decentralised distribution through collection sites.
(MOH, 2022e)
24 Feb 2022*New Zealand moves to Phase Three of Omicron plan
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirms that at 11:59 pm New Zealand will move to Phase Three of the Omicron response plan. There are 6137 new community cases reported and 205 cases in hospital. Phase Three requires only confirmed cases and their household contacts to isolate. All other contacts will be asked to monitor for symptoms but will not have to isolate. Rapid antigen tests (RATs) will become the primary means of testing, will be available from thousands of sites and will now be included in the total number of cases reported. Millions more tests are expected to arrive over the coming days.
(New Zealand Government, 2022j; RNZ, 2022i)
Traffic light
22 Feb 2022*Questions raised over whether COVID-19 regulations are still ‘demonstrably justified’ under NZBORA
In an opinion piece in the New Zealand Herald, Lady Deborah Chambers, QC, states that limiting New Zealanders’ right to freedom of movement and right to enter and leave New Zealand, which are protected under s 18 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (1990) (NZBORA), no longer ‘demonstrably justified’ now that Omicron is widespread in the community. On 25 February 2022, the High Court judgement on Yardley v Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety upheld that the vaccine mandate order was unlawful as it unjustifiably restricted the rights of people to refuse medical treatment and to manifest their religious beliefs, as codified in ss 11 and 15 of NZBORA. This decision was made while Omicron was widespread in the community. The decision in Yardley contrasts with the decision in Four Aviation Security Service Employees v Minister of COVID-19 Response [2021], which held that the vaccine mandate was a justified limit on the right to refuse medical treatment; this decision was made before Delta and Omicron were present in the community.
(Browne, 2022; Chambers, 2022; Four Aviation Security Service Employees v Minister of COVID-19 Response [2021]; Yardley v Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety [2022])
22 Feb 2022*Reports show testing capability doesn’t meet expectations
The Ministry of Health states that there is high demand at COVID-19 testing sites, resulting in long waits. In early January the Ministry stated that testing capacity was 40,000 a day and would increase to 60,000 in February. In February, the Ministry states that at least 58,000 tests can be processed per day; however, testing averages show 22,777 tests per day – 40% of the base capacity claimed by the Ministry.
(NZ Herald, 2022d)
21 Feb 2022*Government announces new financial support for businesses affected by Omicron
A new targeted COVID-19 Support Payment (CPS) will be made available for businesses struggling with revenue during the Omicron outbreak. Three fortnightly COVID-19 Support Payments (CSP) will be available. Applications for the first payment are open for the period beginning 16 February 2022 and ending 4 April 2022. The CSP is available to businesses that have experienced a drop in revenue of 40% or more as a result of COVID-19 impacts, such as the prevalence of community cases, public health measures, staff self-isolating and/or supply chain issues. The CPS is not available to businesses that are able to operate under the Red setting of the COVID Protection Framework, but have chosen to close temporarily without taking all reasonably practical steps to minimise their revenue losses; nor is it available to businesses affected as a result of border restrictions or global supply chain issues. Each CPS will consist of $4000 per business plus $400 per full-time employee (capped at 50 employees or $24,000).
(IRD, 2022; Robertson & Parker, 2022; Small, 2022)
Financial support
20 Feb 2022*Cases in the community reach over 2000
There are 2522 new community cases reported. 20 February 2022 marks one year since the vaccination rollout began, with the vaccination of MIQ and border workers. There have been 3,951,572 second doses administered (95% of the eligible population) and 2,107,058 booster doses (65% of the eligible population).
(MIQ, 2021b; MOH, 2022d; New Zealand Government, 2022i)
Community outbreak
17 Feb 2022*Hospitals affected by COVID-19 cases
Six staff members and six patients at Starship Children’s Hospital test positive for COVID-19. The cases are likely to be linked to a positive case on one of the Starship wards reported the previous week. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield reveals that 10% of patients seeking treatment at Middlemore Hospital's emergency department returned a positive rapid antigen test result on 15 February 2022.
(1News, 2022b; NZ Herald, 2022c)
Health Care Services
16 Feb 2022*Daily cases in the community pass 1000
On 16 February 2022, 1160 new community cases are reported. This is the first time new community cases have surpassed 1000. One week prior, on 9 February, there were 204 new community cases.
(New Zealand Government, 2022g; 2022h)
Community outbreak
16 Feb 2022*New Zealand moves to Phase Two of Omicron plan
On 14 February 2022, after 981 new community cases are reported, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that from 11:59 pm on 16 February 2022 New Zealand will move to Phase Two of the Omicron plan. Under Phase Two the period of self-isolation for people who test positive for COVID-19, and household contacts, reduces from 14 days to 10 days. The period of self-isolation for close contacts is reduced from 10 to seven days. Changes also apply to MIQ isolation periods; those who are eligible to travel into New Zealand from Australia from 27 February will only be required to isolate for seven days. Additionally, a close contact exemption scheme begins at Phase Two, meaning asymptomatic, vaccinated close contacts can keep going to work instead of isolating if they return a daily negative rapid antigen test.
(New Zealand Government, 2022e; 2022f)
Traffic light
15 Feb 2022*‘Convoy 2022’ protest continues into second week
Anti-vaccine mandate protesters continue to camp in Parliament grounds into a second week, with reports of 1,000 protesters present. Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says the protest is no longer tenable. On 15 February 2022, protesters are told to clear the roads or their vehicles will be towed; however, police take no action. Just one of the 180 parking tickets previously issued is paid, and 40 vehicles have moved to free parking offered at Sky Stadium. Victoria University’s Pipitea campus is locked down as a result of protesters camping on the lawn and reports of intimidation and abuse. The central bus terminal is closed. A letter to Cabinet from various groups within the protest states, ‘Until the end of the mandates, participants are determined to maintain their presence.’ On 16 February, ACT leader David Seymour meets with some protesters, saying it is ‘time for dialogue’; this is condemned by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and National Party leader Christopher Luxon. On 16 February four army vehicles travel to Wellington to be pre-positioned but no decisions are made about their use. On 17 February 450 vehicles remain blocking streets surrounding Parliament. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet states the National Security Group is holding a National Security System meeting with a group of chief executives to discuss the protest, but police remain in control of the response to the protest.
(1News, 2022a; RNZ, 2022f; 2022g; 2022h)
12 Feb 2022*Reports that Ministry of Health provided misleading vaccine graph
At a press conference on 17 March 2021, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins presented a graph illustrating volumes and timing of the vaccination rollout. The graph outlined the number of doses to be given each week and the dates on which different groups of people would get them. Multiple media organisations, including Stuff, requested the data behind the graph and it was later revealed that the graph was created from a non-existent data set and suggested that there were to be 2.7 million more second doses given than first doses. In December 2021, the Ombudsman’s office held that the Ministry of Health acted unreasonably in denying Official Information Act requests from media organisations regarding information about the data. On 12 February 2022, reports state that the Ministry of Health have released a retroactively created data set.
(Rodrigues, 2022)
10 Feb 2022*Close contact exemption scheme established
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announce a Close Contact Exemption Scheme (CCES) to help keep critical supply chains running though the Omicron outbreak. During Phases Two and Three of the Omicron response, vaccinated workers at registered critical services who are asymptomatic close contacts of a COVID-19 case will be able to continue to work, as long as they return a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) before each day/shift during the isolation period. Critical services include food production and its supply chain, key public services like health and emergency services, lifeline utilities such as power and water supplies, transport, critical financial services, news media and social welfare, and human and animal health and welfare. If at any point the worker returns a positive RAT, they will need to take a PCR test and isolate. Workers will be expected to remain in isolation outside of work hours. Businesses and organisations can register online as a critical service and must meet the criteria outlined. Workers participating in the scheme will have access to free RATs. In addition, any business or sole trader may have a worker who is a close contact on-site if they are not customer-facing and can maintain a ‘bubble of one’ while at work (including travel to and from work). They are not required to use RATs, and businesses do not need to register the bubble of one. At work, the worker must: wear a mask at all times; work in a space with no others present; travel solo, to, from and around work or between; eat alone in a well-ventilated space; use a dedicated bathroom; ensure that if symptoms develop at any stage, they follow the public advice for close contacts; and continue participating in regular workplace surveillance testing. At home, the worker must self-isolate as per usual for close contacts.
(Hipkins & Verrall, 2022; MBIE, n.d.)
8 Feb 2022*First week of ‘Convoy 2022’ protest begins
On 6 February 2022, convoys of vehicles began travelling from Bluff and Cape Reinga to Parliament grounds, with other vehicles joining throughout the journey, for a protest beginning on 8 February 2022. Thousands of people attend the protest over its duration. The predominant matter protested is the vaccine mandates and related COVID-19 policies. The overarching theme of the protest is ‘freedom’, which is written and displayed on many of the vehicles. Other topics protested by the group include (but are not limited to): Bill of Rights; censorship; Three Waters; freedom of choice; and Māori rights. Protesters camp on Parliament’s grounds and park their vehicles in streets surrounding Parliament, completely obstructing traffic access to Molesworth Street. Police have moved to a ‘state of enforcement action’ and stated the scale of the occupation at Parliament is unprecedented and officers from around the country are called to assist in Wellington with managing the protest. As a result of the protest, temporary closures occur for: nearby businesses and offices, the National Library and Victoria University Pipitea campus; Retail NZ said retail sales are down 70% in the Wellington CBD as a result of the protest and there are reports of staff being verbally abused. On 10 February 2022 (the third day of protest), there is tension between protestors and police, 122 arrests are made for trespass and/or obstruction, pepper spray is deployed twice on protesters and two police officers are assaulted. Children are present at the protest and are put between adult protestors and Police. On 11 February 2022 (the fourth day of protest), parking tickets begin to be distributed to illegally parked vehicles. On 14 February 2022, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reject protesters' request for a meeting, pointing out some carried signs calling for the death of politicians; no other MPs speak to protesters. On 14 February 2022: protestors are offered free parking at Sky Stadium and; those previously arrested fail to appear for their first hearing in the District Court.
(Frame, 2022; McConnell, 2022; RNZ, 2022c; 2022d; 2022e; 2022g; Searle, 2022; WCC, 2022)
7 Feb 2022*COVID-19 enter school communities across New Zealand
On 7 February 2022, 188 new community cases of COVID-19 are identified, the seven-day rolling average of community cases is 170, and 14 cases are in hospital. Within the week, schools in Hamilton, Havelock North, Auckland, Dunedin, Wellington and Martinborough report cases of students and staff contracting COVID-19.
(Johnston, 20222; MOH, 2022; ODT, 2022)
Community outbreak
4 Feb 2022*Canterbury University announces updated vaccine requirements
From 21 February 2022, all staff, students and visitors will be required to be fully vaccinated to enter University campuses. Canterbury previously had a more moderate vaccine policy than all other universities. The decision to implement the mandate was made after a risk assessment and consultation with staff and students; 83% of staff and 73% of student respondents supported the proposed policy.
(UC, 2021; 2022)
3 Feb 2022*Government announces a five-step plan for travellers to enter New Zealand without MIQ
Each step of the five-step plan allows a particular group/s to enter New Zealand and self-isolate upon entry. Self-isolation is only available for fully vaccinated travellers and MIQ will remain for unvaccinated travellers. Step one (from 11:59 pm on 27 February 2022) will open the border to New Zealand citizens and residents travelling to New Zealand from Australia. Step two (from 11:59 pm on 13 March 2022) will allow New Zealand citizens and residents (as well as their partners and dependents), skilled workers, and travellers on a working holiday scheme, from anywhere in the world. Step three (from 11:59 pm on 12 April 2022) will allow current temporary work and student visa holders with a valid visa who can still meet their visa requirements, and up to 5,000 international students for semester two. Step four (from July 2022) will allow all travellers from Australia, visitors from countries who do not need a visa, visitors from other countries who already hold a valid visitor visa, and travellers arriving under the Accredited Employer Work Visa categories. Step five (from October 2022) will allow all visa categories to reopen, including visitor and student visas.
(MIQ, 2022c; New Zealand Government, 2022c; 2022d)
Border control
2 Feb 2022*A person tests positive for COVID-19 while at Wellington Hospital
Capital and Coast DHB confirms a person tested positive for COVID-19 while at Wellington Hospital. The person was being treated for a non-COVID-19-related issue but was showing symptoms and was tested. The DHB said all staff that interacted with the person wore appropriate PPE and are fully vaccinated. The case is moved to a ward for COVID-19 patients.
(RNZ, 2022b)
Health care services
2 Feb 2022*Interval between Pfizer second dose and booster reduced to three months
The gap between the second and third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine is shortened from four months to three. The shorter interval only applies to the Pfizer vaccine and is to take effect on Friday 4 February 2022. The decision is in response to advice from the COVID-19 Technical Advisory Group. By reducing the interval, an additional 1 million New Zealanders are eligible to receive their booster before the end of summer. The Government hopes that more people – especially Māori – will be able to receive a booster before Omicron reaches its peak. This is the second time the interval between the second dose of Pfizer and the booster has been reduced.
(New Zealand Government, 2022b; RNZ, 2022a)
2 Feb 2022*Price of Pfizer vaccine in New Zealand leaked
Current-affairs website Newsroom finds out through an Official Information Act request that the Government paid $36.50 per dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Details of New Zealand's contracts with vaccine manufacturers have been tightly controlled since 2020, when the agreements were first signed. COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins mistakenly supplied Newsroom with three unredacted documents revealing the price. Hipkins regrets the accidental release and any impact the situation may have on New Zealand's relationship with Pfizer.
(Daalder, 2022a; NZ Herald, 2022b)
2 Feb 2022*Government announces funding to Pacific community to prepare for Omicron
The Government announces they are providing a $1.5-million-dollar boost to the Prepare Pacific Community Vaccination Fund to support Pacific community-led initiatives to encourage boosters and child vaccinations. Pacific rates of booster uptake are still low in comparison with other communities in Aotearoa. Only 32% of Pacific people due for a booster have received one so far, compared to 42% of Māori.
(Sio, 2022)
Financial support
1 Feb 2022*OECD report card backs New Zealand’s response to COVID-19
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) 2022 Economic Survey for New Zealand has recognised the New Zealand Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the country has one of the lowest mortality rates in the world while the economy has proved strong and resilient. Recommendations include a focus on improving digital technologies.
(Robertson & Clark, 2022)
29 Jan 2022*Prime Minister enters self-isolation after being deemed a close contact
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been deemed a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case and has entered self-isolation in line with Ministry of Health advice. The Governor-General and members of her staff were also on board and are following the same isolation instructions. The exposure event took place on Saturday 22 January 2022 during a flight from Kerikeri to Auckland. All other passengers on board NZ8273 are also deemed close contacts and are required to self-isolate, get tested immediately and remain in isolation for 10 days following their exposure.
(Ardern, 2022b)
Track and tracing
26 Jan 2022*Government announces three-phase public health response to Omicron
The government announces a three-phase system within the traffic light system in response to Omicron. As case numbers grow both testing and isolation approaches will change. Phase One is a ‘stamp it out’ approach and requires COVID-19 cases to isolate for 14 days, and contacts for 10 days. Phase Two’s objective is to slow the spread and protect vulnerable communities. In this phase the isolation period for cases will be reduced to 10 days and contacts to seven days. At Phase Three, when cases are in the thousands, further changes will be made to contact tracing. The definition of contacts will change to household and household-like contacts only, meaning highest-risk contacts will need to isolate. Phases two and three will involve a greater use of technology, including text notifications for cases and close contacts and automated contact identification.
(Verrall, 2022b)
Traffic light
26 Jan 2022*Announcement of changes to supply of RAT and PCR tests
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces 4.6 million RATs are in the country, and 14.6 million more are expected over the next five weeks. A potential 22 million may also arrive over the same period. There is criticism that the supply of RATs is coming too late, and that the number ordered is not enough to deal with Omicron. On 25 January 2022, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announces an increase in PCR testing capacity from a maximum of 39,000 tests a day to a baseline of 58,000 tests. Surge capacity is now 77,600 tests, which can be sustained for seven days.
(NZ Herald, 2022a; Verrall, 2022a)
23 Jan 2022*No new financial support offered with shift to Red
As New Zealand moves to Red, businesses receive no new financial support such as the previous Wage Subsidy Scheme. Finance Minister Grant Robertson says businesses and the self-employed will be able to access existing support, including Short-Term Absence payments ($359 per week per worker) and the Leave Support Scheme ($600 per week for full-timers, $359 per week for part-timers). Inland Revenue, at the IRD Commissioner’s discretion, will continue to offer leeway to businesses hit by the pandemic. Business groups have expressed concerns with ability to cope with an Omicron outbreak, such as isolating staff and supply chain issues, without any more financial support. Robertson said rapid antigen tests (RATs) are key to minimising supply chain issues. Big businesses can order RATs from offshore, while the government will concentrate on helping small to medium businesses access rapid-testing kits.
(Keall, 2022)

Financial support
23 Jan 2022*New Zealand moves to Red traffic light setting
Jacinda Ardern announces that all of New Zealand will move to the Red setting of the Covid Protection Framework at 11:59 pm as Omicron is now circulating in the community. This comes after 10 COVID-19 cases in Nelson/Marlborough are confirmed as the Omicron variant. The cluster has led to an infection of a fully vaccinated Air New Zealand flight attendant on 16 January; the flight attendant worked on another four flights while infectious. Ardern confirms Omicron is circulating in Auckland and possibly Nelson/Marlborough. The strategy is to slow down its spread Omicron with boosters, vaccinating children, mask wearing and restricting gatherings to 100 people.
(Ardern, 2022a)
Traffic light
19 Jan 2022*Report to the DPMC outlines level of preparedness for an Omicron outbreak
The classified Across Government Situation Report prepared for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is leaked, revealing information about masks and ICU. The report states that facial coverings made from cloth are not enough to prevent or reduce Omicron infection. It highlights concerns that intensive care beds are limited across district health boards, with 36% of ICU beds currently available, and no ICU capacity at West Coast and Hawke’s Bay DHBs.
(Trafford, 2022)
Health Care Services
18 Jan 2022*MIQ room release postponed
Due to the unprecedented number of Omicron cases coming into New Zealand, a decision is made to postpone the next MIQ room release scheduled for 20 January 2022. There has been a 10-fold increase in positive COVID-19 cases at the border compared to December. The seven-day rolling average of border cases is 33.
(MIQ, 2022b)
Border control
17 Jan 2022*Vaccination of 5–11-year-olds begins
The Ministry of Health reports that 13,028 child (paediatric) vaccine first doses were administered to 5 to 11-year-olds throughout New Zealand on 18 January. In the first two days of the vaccine being available to children, nearly 30,000 doses are administered.
(MOH, 2022b)
13 Jan 2022*Border cases increase due to Omicron
The Ministry of Health reports 28 new community cases of COVID-19 and 13 cases at the border. Border cases from overseas are increasing, reflecting the growing number of Omicron cases globally. Capital and Coast becomes the first DHB area to reach the 90% fully vaccinated milestone for Māori.
(MOH, 2022a; New Zealand Government, 2022a)
Community outbreak
7 Jan 2022*Special emergency category for MIQ begins for New Zealanders in Australia with severe hardship
A temporary emergency allocation category is implemented for New Zealand citizens in Australia who face significant and severe hardship if they do not return to New Zealand in the next two months. Applications will be accepted between 13 January and 13 February, for travel to occur within 14 days. People are eligible if a delay in travelling to New Zealand beyond the end of February will result in significant financial hardship and/or homelessness or an otherwise unsafe living condition. Applications will require evidence that the individual/family had booked travel between 24 November and 22 December 2021 for between 17 January and 28 February 2022, and that between 24 November and 22 December 2021, the individual/family took other significant steps that mean their travel to New Zealand cannot be delayed beyond the end of February 2022.
(MIQ, 2022a)
Border control
6 Jan 2022*Pfizer vaccine considered less effective against Omicron
The UK Health Security Agency publishes the Week 1 COVID-19 vaccine surveillance report, regarding whether the Pfizer vaccine will be effective against Omicron. Media cover the report’s findings, as fears of a large Omicron outbreak grow after the first case in the community on 29 December 2021. Evidence in the report suggests that current vaccines, developed for previous variants, are less effective against Omicron. Initial data shows two doses of Pfizer are less than 20% effective. A booster dose of Pfizer increases the effectiveness, but after 10 weeks, this reduces to approximately 45%.
(Burrell, 2022; Lynch, 2022; UK Health Security Agency, 2022)
29 Dec 2021*First Omicron case in community
The first case of Omicron in the community is detected. The case arrived on a flight from the United Kingdom via Doha on 16 December 2021 and is fully vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine. The case is revealed as a British DJ, who was to perform at a number of festivals over the new year period. He left self-isolation on day 10, before receiving the results of his mandatory day nine test. While infectious, he visited public areas including a jewellery store and a nightclub. Ministry of Health has deemed the breach to be minor.
(MOH, 2021ee; Walters, 2022)
Community outbreak
21 Dec 2021*First new COVID-19 treatment approved for use in New Zealand
Medsafe approves the first new COVID-19 medicine – Ronapreve, an antibody drug administered by injection, used to prevent and treat COVID-19. This comes after New Zealand secured access to the drug in late October 2021. An existing steroid treatment, Dexamethasone, is already approved for treatment of COVID-19. Ronapreve is available to those aged 12 and older who have a medical condition making them unlikely to respond to or be protected by vaccination, or who are not vaccinated against COVID-19. However, Ronapreve is not intended to be used as a substitute for vaccination.
(Little, 2021; Medsafe, 2022; New Zealand Gazette, 2021)
21 Dec 2021*Government announces plan in response to Omicron variant
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announces precautionary measures to keep Omicron out of the community. The interval between the second dose of the vaccine and the booster is reduced from six months to four months, meaning over 82 per cent of vaccinated New Zealanders will be eligible for a booster by the end of February 2022. Eligible border and health workers are required to get the booster dose. The pre-departure test requirement to enter New Zealand is reduced from 72 hours to 48 hours before travel, and the reopening of the border is pushed out to the end of February. Everyone on an international flight with a case of Omicron is to be treated as a close contact. All countries are removed from the Very High Risk country list. Cabinet also confirms the decision to roll out paediatric doses of Pfizer for 5–11-year-olds from 17 January 2022, prior to school returning. Cabinet confirms the use of the traffic light system to manage outbreaks; in the event of an Omicron outbreak areas will move into the red setting.
(Hipkins, 2021h)
21 Dec 2021*Government announces extension of MIQ stay
From 11:59 pm on 23 December 2021, all stays in MIQ will be extended to 10 days. This replaces the seven-day stay in MIQ followed by self-isolation at home for three days. These changes are in response to the Omicron variant.
(New Zealand Government, 2021l)
Border control
16 Dec 2021*Announcement of the first Omicron case detected in New Zealand
Whole genome sequencing detects New Zealand’s first case of the Omicron variant in a recent international arrival who tested positive in a day 0/1 test at a Christchurch managed isolation facility. The case arrived in Auckland from Germany via Dubai on 10 December and flew to MIQ in Christchurch on an aircraft chartered for international arrivals. After testing positive, they are moved from the Crowne Plaza managed isolation facility to the Sudima Christchurch Airport dual-use managed isolation and quarantine facility. The case is fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says that while the arrival of a new variant is concerning, New Zealand is well placed to manage Omicron cases.
(MOH, 2021dd)
Community outbreak
15 Dec 2021*Youngest COVID-19 deaths in New Zealand reported
Two of the youngest people to die of COVID-19 in New Zealand are reported within a week of each other. On 15 December 2021, the Ministry of Health confirms a person in their late 30s died the previous week, the youngest person to die of COVID-19 in New Zealand. On 17 December 2021, the death of a Māori boy aged 0–9 years is recorded on the Ministry of Health website. The child tested positive for COVID-19 after his death, and the cause of death is under investigation (it is reported as a COVID-19 death because he died while infected). Māori account for 32% of all COVID-19 related deaths in New Zealand, while making up 17.1% of the population. As of 20 December 2021, there are a total of 49 deaths of people with COVID-19 recorded in New Zealand.
(Corlett, 2021; NZ Herald, 2021p; 2021q)
13 Dec 2021*Reviewed traffic light settings announced
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces that Auckland and all other regions currently in the Red traffic light setting, except Northland, will move to Orange at 11:59 pm on 30 December 2021. Northland will stay in Red. These settings will be in place until 17 January 2021.
(Cooke, 2021b)
Traffic light
3 Dec 2021*Universities begin announcing vaccine mandates
Auckland University announces they will require all students and visitors to have a valid My Vaccine Pass in order to come onto campus from 4 January 2022. Over the following month, the University of Otago, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Waikato, Massey University and Lincoln University also announce vaccination will be required for students and staff accessing their campuses from dates between January and February 2022. The University of Canterbury and Auckland University of Technology require fewer people to be vaccinated, but still require My Vaccine Pass in some settings, such as residential halls. The My Vaccine Pass work vaccination mandate applies to the tertiary education sector only at the Red level, allowing universities to make their own decisions regarding vaccine requirements.
(AUT, 2021; LU, n.d.; MBIE, 2021d; MU, 2021; UC, 2021; UO, 2021; UOA, 2021; UOW, 2021; VUW, 2021)
3 Dec 2021*Workers covered by My Vaccine Pass mandate need to be vaccinated
All workers in businesses that must use My Vaccine Passes to operate or operate with fewer restrictions, at all levels of the COVID-19 Protection Framework, are required to have their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 3 December 2021 and be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 17 January 2022. This mandate applies regardless of whether the business chooses not to require My Vaccine Passes from their customers or clients. The mandate applies to all workers, including both customer-facing and non-customer-facing workers. It also includes workers who access a site temporarily (such as cleaners and delivery drivers).
(MBIE, 2021d; New Zealand Government 2021h)
3 Dec 2021*My Vaccine Pass mandate implemented
As part of the traffic light system, it is now a legal requirement to provide the My Vaccine Pass to enter places that have vaccination requirements in place under the traffic light system. This includes food and drink services (excluding businesses operating solely as takeaways), events, close proximity businesses and indoor exercise facilities. My Vaccine Pass is not required to access basic needs services, such as supermarkets, public transport and essential health care. If an establishment chooses not to follow My Vaccine Pass requirements, there will be limits on the number of people in a venue.
(MBIE, 2021d; New Zealand Government, 2021k)
2 Dec 2021*Traffic light system implemented
All of New Zealand moves to the COVID-19 Protection Framework, also known as the traffic light system, at 11:59 pm. This marks the end of the COVID-19 Alert System. The framework has three settings: Red (highest level of restrictions in place, as there needs to be action to protect vulnerable communities and the health system from COVID-19); Orange (there is community transmission of COVID-19, with increasing risks to vulnerable communities, and pressure on the health system); and Green (lowest level of restrictions as there is limited community transmission, and the health system is ready to respond). On 29 November 2021, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Northland, Auckland, Taupō and Rotorua Lakes Districts, Kawerau, Whakatāne, Ōpōtiki Districts, Gisborne District, Wairoa District, Rangitīkei, Whanganui and Ruapehu Districts would move into the Red setting, while the rest of the North Island and the whole South Island would move to Orange. At this time, 85% of eligible New Zealanders are fully vaccinated. Key components of the COVID-19 Protection Framework include vaccination; My Vaccine Pass; capacity limits; record keeping (QR codes); and localised protections and lockdowns.
(Ardern, 2021e; New Zealand Government, 2021a; 2021j)
Traffic light
1 Dec 2021*COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order (No 5) 2021 comes into force
At 11:59 pm, the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Amendment Order (No 5) 2021 comes into force. Clauses 9 and 10 came into force at 11:59 pm on 29 November 2021. The order amends the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021. The amendments include replacing Schedules, changing ‘a COVID-19 vaccine’ to ‘the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine’, and replacing certain dates with ones later in time.
29 Nov 21*AstraZeneca vaccine becomes available
The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine becomes available in New Zealand, as an alternative to the Pfizer vaccine. It is free, and available for people aged 18 years and over who cannot receive the Pfizer vaccine or for people who would like a different option. AstraZeneca requires two doses, with an interval of 4 to 12 weeks between doses. On 29 March 2022, Ministry of Health report 3,500 people had received two doses of AstraZeneca.
(Andelane & Longley, 2021; Health Navigator NZ, 2021; RNZ, 2022k)
26 Nov 2021*Government announces workplace vaccination mandate will be extended to Police and Defence Force
All sworn members, recruits and authorised officers of the New Zealand Police and all New Zealand Defence Force staff are required to be vaccinated against COVID-19. They must have their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 17 January 2022, and be fully vaccinated by 1 March 2022.
(New Zealand Government, 2021h; Wood, 2021)
26 Nov 2021*Report from independent advisory group released
A report by the COVID-19 Independent Continuous Review, Improvement and Advice Group, Observations from the Recent Delta Outbreak and their Impact on Reconnecting New Zealanders, is (proactively) released. The group provides advice to the Minister for the COVID-19 Response on specific areas of the response where improvements could be made, with the benefit of alternative and independent perspectives. The report identifies four key layers of defence and response: vaccination; border processes; public health measures; and health system safety net. Key points are that urgent action is required, and doing nothing is not an option; the Delta outbreak has significantly exposed issues with respect to New Zealand’s preparedness for reconnecting. The report also notes the goodwill and tolerance of the general public to lockdowns and the closure of the borders is being challenged. The report is dated 23 September, and the government is criticised for not acting on its advice earlier.
(COVID-19 Independent Advice Group, 2021; Hosking, 2021; New Zealand Government, 2021i; Wade, 2021)
25 Nov 2021*Government invests $1.5 billion into testing and home isolation
The Minister of Health, Minister of Social Development and Associate Health Minister reveal information about the management of COVID-19 and of cases isolating at home. A person with COVID-19 isolating at home will receive a call within 24 hours from a health care provider and will receive a health pack tailored to their needs within 48 hours. Local health providers are to be involved earlier and on a greater scale for those who test positive. Welfare teams are set up in each region to facilitate tailored social support services for people isolating at home. Fully vaccinated people with COVID-19 must self-isolate for ten days; those who are unvaccinated must self-isolate for 14 days. Close contacts who are not linked by living in the same household are to isolate for seven days if fully vaccinated, and ten days if unvaccinated. Businesses will be able to source rapid antigen tests from 1 December 2021 and New Zealanders will be able to get their own rapid antigen tests from pharmacies from 15 December 2021. Test processing capacity at laboratories is to be boosted, from the current 16,000 PCR tests per day to 60,000 by early 2022. An additional 475 investigators will be trained by the end of November to aid contact tracing and case investigation efforts. $300 million is invested in boosting national drug-buying agency Pharmac to purchase more medicines to treat COVID-19.
(Pearse, 2021d)
17 Nov 2021*Man dies from myocarditis two weeks after first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine
A 26-year-old man received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on 5 November 2021. On 17 November 2021 he dies, and preliminary information from the post mortem examination identifies myocarditis as the probable cause of death. The COVID-19 Vaccine Independent Safety Monitoring Board believes the man's death is probably linked to the vaccine.
(NZ Herald, 2021o)
17 Nov 2021*Government announces Auckland’s boundary restrictions to be eased 15 December
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces that the Auckland boundary will formally lift at 11:59 pm Tuesday 14 December 2021. This is will be the first day since the August 2021 lockdown was announced that Aucklanders are able to leave Auckland. They will need to be fully vaccinated or have a negative test within 72 hours of departure to travel outside the Auckland boundary. This requirement is in place till 17 January 2022 and applies to anyone leaving Auckland but is not a requirement for entry . People breaking the rules will face an infringement fine of $1,000.
(Ardern, 2021d; Pearse, 2021c)
Border control
17 Nov 2021*Government launches vaccine pass
My Vaccine Pass is launched as an official record of a person’s vaccination status. The pass will allow fully vaccinated people to access places that require proof of vaccination status under the traffic light system. These may include events, hospitality, retail, community, sport and faith-based gatherings. The pass displays a QR code, the vaccine holder’s full name and date of birth, and the expiry date of the pass (six months from November). It can be added to a smartphone ‘wallet’ or printed out. The pass states that photo ID may be required to accompany it and that it cannot be used for international travel. Concerns arise over the pass being an editable PDF, as someone could change the name or expiry date. However, Ministry of Health group manager national digital services Michael Dreyer affirms that ‘[t]he QR code is scanned to verify authenticity and this relies on encryption. Any changes to the QR code will invalidate the key check and therefore can be identified as fraudulent.’
(1News, 2021; Keall, 2021)
16 Nov 2021*Parts of Waikato move to Alert Level 2
Parts of Waikato move to Alert Level 2.
Auckland remains at Step 2, Alert Level 3.
The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
15 Nov 2021*Workers in the education sector and health and disability sector required to be vaccinated
Under the COVID-19 Vaccinations Order, certain roles in the education sector and all workers in the health and disability sector are required to have their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 15 November 2021 and be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 1 January 2022. In the education sector this includes anyone who works, volunteers or does unpaid work in education and who may have contact with children or students while working, or will be at an education service when children or students are present. The order does not include tertiary institutions (or people that work within them) or certified playgroups (except for playgroups that operate on a school or early learning site or are run by a home-based childcare provider). All health practitioners and anyone who works closely with health practitioners (such as reception or cleaning staff) must be vaccinated. Care and support workers who go into people’s homes to provide services funded by the Ministry of Health, DHBs or ACC will need to be vaccinated (including family member of the person requiring care) must be vaccinated.
(New Zealand Government, 2021h)
14 Nov 2021*MIQ stay reduced
From 14 November 2021, the managed isolation period for international arrivals into New Zealand is reduced from 14 days to 7 days, followed by isolation at home until the result of a day 9 test has been received. Travellers will continue to undergo tests on day 0/1, day 3 and day 5/6 while in managed isolation. A low-risk indicator check and health check will be required before people can leave MIQ. This change will help provide more rooms for international arrivals, though not substantially, as modelling for the number of rooms needed for high-risk community cases is not yet conclusive enough. The fee for an individual in a room is reduced from $3,100 to $1,610.
(MBIE, 2021c)
Border control
12 Nov 2021*MOH releases pre-existing health conditions of those who died while infected with COVID-19
The Ministry of Health states that of the 33 people that died from COVID-19 or whose death is still under investigation, nine of those people had cardiovascular disease, five had chronic lung disease, seven had diabetes, eight had other underlying health conditions, and a small number had conditions such as renal failure, neurological or neuromuscular disease and malignancy.
(NZ Herald, 2021n)
Community Outbreak
11 Nov 2021*4,000 DHB workers not vaccinated
Approximately 4,000 district health board workers are not vaccinated as at 11 November. By 16 November, all DHB staff (including both clinical and non-clinical) must have had at least their first dose of Pfizer unless they have a medical exemption. Staff who do not choose to be vaccinated will be stood down.
(Quinn, 2021b)
11 Nov 2021*Northland moves to Alert Level 2
Upper Northland moves to Alert Level 2. Auckland and parts of Waikato remain at Step 2, Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
10 Nov 2021*Changes to the reporting of COVID-19 related deaths
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announces that the government is changing the way in which it will publicly report deaths by COVID-19. The aim is to ensure reporting is timely and indicates other causes of death. The clinical criteria will continue to be guided by the World Health Organization definition, which is to report any death where the person has an acute COVID-19 infection, regardless of the cause of death. Deaths where the cause of death is not certain but the person had COVID-19 will be reported, but separately from deaths in which COVID-19 was the cause. Deaths where the cause is not certain will be classified as under investigation before further information from the clinicians or coroner is given.
(MOH, 2021cc; Quinn, 2021b)
9 Nov 2021*Auckland moves to Step 2, Alert Level 3
Auckland moves to Step 2, Alert Level 3 at 11:59 pm. Parts of Waikato remain at Step 1, Alert Level 3. Upper Northland remains at Alert Level 3 and the rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
8 Nov 2021*High Court Judge holds that vaccine mandate on border workers is legal
Justice Cooke holds that requiring the vaccination of border workers under the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. This makes the legislation compliant with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, s 5.
(Four Aviation Security Service Employees v Minister of COVID-19 Response [2021])
8 Nov 2021*Guest staying at MIQ facility dies
A guest who tested positive for Covid-19 dies at the Crowne Plaza Auckland MIQ facility. The person had arrived from overseas on 3 November.
(NZ Herald, 2021m)
Border control
6 Nov 2021*Workers in the corrections sector required to be vaccinated
Under the COVID-19 Vaccinations Order, workers in the corrections sector are required to have their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 6 November 2021 and be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 8 December 2021. This applies to all staff who work in prisons, including health care staff and professionals; psychologists working in prisons and the community; and many contracted providers and those who provide services in prisons.
(New Zealand Government, 2021h)
2 Nov 2021*New Zealand found to be slow to negotiate vaccine agreements
Documents released under the Official Information Act show New Zealand has been slow to negotiate vaccine agreements. In May 2020 New Zealand’s vaccine taskforce (led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) was established. In August 2020, the group was given funding and a mandate from Cabinet to begin negotiating with international pharmaceutical companies. Between October and December 2020, New Zealand signed four vaccine agreements. The New Zealand Herald reports that ‘the public was fed a soothing version of events shaped by outside PR help’. In comparison, between May and August 2020, the EU, US, UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore, Japan and South Korea had all negotiated vaccine agreements.
(MacNamara, 2021)
2 Nov 2021*Upper Northland moves to Alert Level 3
Upper Northland moves to Alert Level 3. The parts of Waikato at Step 1, Alert Level 3 move to Step 2, Alert Level 3 at 11:59 pm. At Step 2 retail will open its doors, with the usual measures of wearing face masks and physical distancing. Public facilities such as pools and zoos open, and the number of people who can meet outdoors increases to 25. Auckland remains at Step 1 of Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a; New Zealand Government, 2021g)
Alert level
28 Oct 2021*Pfizer vaccine provisionally approved for two more years
Medsafe renews provisional approval for the Pfizer vaccine for a further two years, after the approval was due to expire on 3 November 2021. Pfizer is required to meet conditions and supply ongoing data from clinical trials and safety monitoring, as well as providing updates on any manufacturer.
(Witton, 2021)
27 Oct 2021*Parts of Waikato move to Step 1 of Alert Level 3
The parts of Waikato that are in Alert Level 3 move to the eased restrictions – ‘Step 1’. Auckland remains at Step 1, Alert Level 3, while the rest of New Zealand remains at Level 2.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
19 Oct 2021*Northland moves to Alert Level 2
Northland moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59 pm. Auckland and parts of Waikato remain at Alert Level 3, while the rest of New Zealand remains at Level 2.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
8 Oct 2021*Northland moves to Alert Level 3
Northland moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59 pm. Auckland and parts of Waikato remain at Alert Level 3, while the rest of New Zealand remains at Level 2.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
7 Oct 2021*Waikato Alert Level 3 boundary extends
From 11:59 pm the Waikato Alert Level 3 boundary extends to include Waitomo District, including Te Kūiti, Waipā District and Ōtorohanga District. Auckland remains at Alert Level 3 with some restrictions eased. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
5 Oct 2021*Auckland moves to Step 1 of Alert Level 3
At 11:59 pm Alert Level 3 restrictions ease in Auckland, to sub-level ‘Step 1’. Key changes include: people are able to connect with others outdoors, with no more than two households at a time, up to a maximum of 10 people; early childhood education returns for all; and people can move around Auckland for recreation such as beach visits and hunting. Parts of Waikato remain at Alert Level 3, while the rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a; New Zealand Government, 2021g)
Alert level
3 Oct 2021*Air New Zealand requires international passengers to be vaccinated from February 2022
Air New Zealand announces international passengers departing from or arriving in New Zealand who are aged 18 and over will be required to be vaccinated from 1 February 2022. Those wishing to fly who are not vaccinated will be required to present proof that vaccination was not a viable option for them for medical reasons.
(Air New Zealand, 2021c; Marris, 2021)
3 Oct 2021*Parts of Waikato move to Alert Level 3
Raglan, Te Kauwhata, Huntly, Ngāruawāhia, Hamilton City and some surrounding areas move to Alert Level 3 for five days from 11:59 pm. Auckland remains at Alert Level 3 while the rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
2 Oct 2021*Protests held against lockdown and alert level restrictions
An anti-lockdown protest is held in Auckland, organised by The Freedoms & Rights Coalition. It is estimated over 1000 people attend, breaching Alert Level 3 restrictions of gatherings of no more than 10. On 12 October, Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki appears before Auckland District Court on charges of intentionally failing to comply with the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020 by organising and attending a gathering in an outdoor place in breach of Alert Level 3 restrictions. On 16 October, Freedom NZ protests occur in Auckland (2000 attendees) and Tamaki speaks to protesters. On the same day, there is a protest led by a Destiny Church pastor in Whangārei (1000 attendees). Protests also occurred in Mt Maunganui, Whakatāne, Gisborne, Havelock North, Wellington and Christchurch. On 30 October, an estimated 5000 people march through Auckland Central for what protesters call ‘Freedom Day’, and 1000 people gather in Nelson for a rally led by a Destiny Church pastor which includes speakers talking on the COVID-19 vaccine programme, 5G and abortion. At all protests there is little to no mask wearing and social distancing.
(Bell, 2021; de Graaf, 2021; Dillane, 2021; Sivignon, 2021; NZ Herald, 2021l; Williams, 2021)
Alert level
1 Oct 2021*Applications for fourth round of wage subsidy open
Applications for the fourth round for the wage subsidy scheme open for the 28 September to 11 October revenue round. Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson confirms that since the outbreak started, there have been 652,103 approved applications for the border wage subsidy and $4.2 billion of economic support has been paid out.
(Neilson, 2021g)
Financial support
28 Sep 2021*Travel restrictions from Auckland ease
Government announces that from 11:59 pm Aucklanders will be able to travel into a Level 2 environment if they are relocating permanently, if they have shared caregiving arrangements and if they are returning from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2. Travellers need to carry proof of reason to travel, they must not be sick, and need to complete a test 72 hours before departure. A test is also required within seven days of each crossing of the Auckland border for those with shared caregivers.
(Cheng, 2021g)
Alert level
25 Sep 2021*Upper Hauraki moves to Alert Level 2
Upper Hauraki moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59 pm. Auckland remains at Alert Level 3 while the rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
21 Sep 2021*Maximum penalty for court-imposed fines increase to $12,000 for breach of COVID-19 rules
Government announces fines for COVID-19 infringements will increase from $300 to $4,000 for individuals. If the court imposes the fines on individuals, the maximum penalty will increase from $1,000 to $12,000. The increase in fines comes as Auckland prepares to move to from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 on 22 September.
(Neilson, 2021f)
21 Sep 2021*Auckland moves to Alert Level 3
Auckland and Upper Hauraki move to Alert Level 3 at 11:59 pm. The rest of New Zealand remains at Alert Level 2.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
20 Sep 2021*MIQ virtual lobby system rolled out
The ‘virtual lobby’ voucher system, aiming to improve the MIQ booking system, begins. The first release is at 8 am, and 5,364 people from 117 countries manage to secure MIQ vouchers (3,205 rooms). At its peak there are 31,800 users in the queue. Thousands of people miss out on vouchers in the first release; MIQ reassures hopeful travellers there are several thousand vouchers still to be released through to the end of the year.
(MIQ, 2021a)
Border control
17 Sep 2021*Experts call on Ministry of Health to improve its mask wearing guidelines
In the wake of highly transmissible variants of COVID-19, a group of experts from Auckland University’s Koi Tū: The Centre for Informed Futures produce a Rapid Evidence Brief to improve mask use among New Zealanders. The brief includes suggestions for a public campaign to educate on correct mask wearing (and what masking practices are insufficient). It suggests that at Alert Level 2 and above masking practices should be strictly observed in places where people congregate. All essential workers, border workers and those staying at MIQ facilities (whenever they are outside their own rooms) are strongly recommended to wear certified N95 or similar respirator masks at all COVID-19 Alert Levels (and no other types of masks should be used in these high-risk situations). All N95 respirator mask users should receive training on the optimal individual fit and use of these masks.
(Wilkinson et al., 2021)
17 Sep 2021*A total of 78 Aucklanders charged with breaching lockdown restrictions
78 people have been charged with a total of 82 offences related to Auckland lockdown breaches. Of these, 65 were for Failing to Comply with Order (Covid-19), 14 for Failure to Comply with Direction/Prohibition/Restriction, one for Failing to Stop (Covid 19-related), and two for Assaults/Threatens/Hinders/Obstructs Enforcement Officer. Police also arrest two people who allegedly used false documents to pass Auckland’s southern border checkpoint to travel to Taupō. On 15 September 2021, three essential workers were arrested for using their genuine worker passes to travel through the border to Tūroa ski field.
(Neilson, 2021e)
Community outbreak
17 Sep 2021*NZ Herald and NZME launch ‘The 90% Project’ initiative
The New Zealand Herald and New Zealand Media and Entertainment (NZME) launch a joint campaign called ‘The 90% Project’ to track the vaccination of the eligible population, aiming for at least 90 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated by Christmas. The daily vaccination tracker was developed by data specialist Chris McDowall. Those presenting the initiative are the NZ Herald, Newstalk ZB, Northern Advocate, Bay of Plenty Times, Rotorua Daily Post, Hawke’s Bay Today, Whanganui Chronicle and NZME’s community papers.
(NZ Herald, 2021j; 2021k)
12 Sep 2021*Government secures additional 775,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine from Europe
The government expects to receive 1.8 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer throughout September. An additional 775,000 doses are purchased to help meet the current surge in demand for vaccination. Of the 775,000 doses, 275,000 are purchased from Spain (which arrived 10 September) and 500,000 are from Denmark.
(Ardern, 2021b; 2021c)
7 Sep 2021*Most of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2
All of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2 at 11:59 pm, except Auckland, which remains at Alert Level 4.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
2 Sep 2021*Northland moves to Alert Level 3
Northland moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59 pm. All of New Zealand is at Alert Level 3, except Auckland, which remains at Alert Level 4.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
31 Aug 2021*Most of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 3
All of New Zealand south of Auckland moves to Alert Level 3 at 11:59 pm. Auckland and Northland remain at Alert Level 4.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
25 Aug 2021*Concerns highlighted about government priorities
Entrepreneur Nick Mowbray raises concerns about government ‘helicopter management’ and 'a lack of leaders’ understanding about what needs to be prioritised at a macro level.
(Mowbray, 2021)
22 Aug 2021*Contact tracers attempt to trace three people who used a walkway near MIQ facility
Authorities continue to investigate how the community outbreak started. Contact tracers seek to find three people who used a public walkway close to the Crowne Plaza MIQ facility. They were seen there at the time the person who was the potential source of the COVID-19 Delta outbreak was moved from the MIQ facility to managed isolation.
(RNZ, 2021m)
Track and tracing
20 Aug 2021*Government allows Pfizer vaccine for 12–18-year-olds
Parents of 12–18-year-olds may book a Pfizer vaccination for their child. Those aged 12–18 will be able to book for themselves from 1 September 2021.
(NZ Herald, 2021i)
19 Aug 2021*Latest outbreak linked to traveller from Sydney
The Prime Minister confirms the current cases in the community outbreak are a close match with a traveller who returned from Sydney on a managed red zone flight on 7 August 2021. There are a total of 21 Delta cases in Auckland, with two in hospital.
(NZ Herald, 2021i)
Community outbreak
18 Aug 2021*Wage Subsidy August 2021 becomes available
The Wage Subsidy August 2021 is available from 18 August to 9 December 2021. It is to help employers and self-employed people keep paying staff and protect jobs impacted by the alert level changes from 17 August 2021. Each round of the Wage Subsidy August 2021 is for a two-week lump-sum payment at the rate of $600 a week for each full-time employee and $359 a week for each part-time employee. This is the final wage subsidy under the Wage Subsidy Scheme. The Treasury reported that the Scheme paid out $18 billion between March 2020 and November 2021.
(The Treasury, 2021; Work and Income, n.d.[c])
Financial support
18 Aug 2021*Concerns raised about hospital ICU capacity
Health care professionals and academics raise concerns about the health system’s ability to cope with a large COVID-19 outbreak. The Ministry of Health notes the number of available ICU-capable ventilators has doubled since New Zealand’s ranking near the bottom of the OECD for per-capita ICU capacity last year. Despite the increase in equipment, there is still concern about actual resourced bed capacity.
(Cheng, 2021f)
Health Care Services
18 Aug 2021*Four new community cases of COVID-19
There are four new community cases of the Delta variant in New Zealand, including a fully vaccinated nurse from Auckland City Hospital. All are linked to the first case discovered in Devonport on 17 August.
(Neilson, 2021d)
Community Outbreak
17 Aug 2021*COVID-19 transmission at MIQ facility
Genomic testing finds transmission of the Delta variant between cases in separate rooms of the Jet Park Auckland MIQ facility. The transmission is considered likely to have occurred when doors to the rooms on opposite sides of the corridor were open at the same time. As a result, all MIQ facilities make immediate changes to procedures relating to meal delivery and health checks.
(NZ Herald, 2021h)
Border control
17 Aug 2021*Self-isolation requirements extend to household contacts of a person who has been at a location of interest
A section 70 order (under the Health Act 1956) is issued which specifies requirements for people who attended locations of interest identified by the Ministry of Health. A further section 70 order is issued on 18 August for household contacts of people who have been at a specified location of interest, requiring the household contact to isolate as well, until the person who was at the location of interest has returned a negative test after five days.
(RNZ, 2021l)
17 Aug 2021*New Zealand moves to Alert Level 4
One community case of the Delta variant is identified in Auckland. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces that from 11:59 pm, the whole of New Zealand will move to Alert Level 4. Auckland and the Coromandel Peninsula will initially be at Alert Level 4 for seven days, while the rest of the country will be at Alert Level 4 for at least three days. This is the second time New Zealand has moved into Alert Level 4.
(MOH, 2021bb; MOJ, 2021; New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
13 Aug 2021#Decision made not to use trialled Bluetooth contact tracing cards
The Ministry of Health decides not to implement Bluetooth contact tracing cards (previously referred to as a ‘CovidCard’) nationally, following a trial of the cards in Rotorua in 2020. The Ministry notes privacy issues, the cost of the cards, and the need for everyone to be wearing one as some of the factors in the decision.
(Garcia, 2021; Moir, 2020)
Track and tracing
12 Aug 2021*Self-isolation pilot for business travellers announced
The government announces a self-isolation pilot as part of preparation for safely resuming quarantine-free travel. The pilot will run between October and December 2021 and will involve businesses and organisations that need to send staff overseas for a short trip. Self-isolation must be for 14 days in a private dwelling with no shared ventilation system. The dwelling must have cellular coverage. Monitoring and testing over the self-isolation period will be mandatory. Participants are required to be New Zealand citizens or holders of a resident visa with a right to re-enter New Zealand, to be fully vaccinated in New Zealand with the Pfizer vaccine, and to not travel to or through very high-risk countries. Travel must be for business purposes which cannot be carried out from New Zealand.
(Ardern, 2021a; Hipkins, 2021g)
Border control
11 Aug 2021*Indonesia and Fiji classified as very high risk
From midnight 15 August, travel from Indonesia and Fiji is restricted to New Zealand citizens, their partners and children, and parents of dependent children who are New Zealand citizens following designation as very high risk countries. Pre-departure testing is also required for those travelling from Indonesia. All other travellers must spend 14 days outside of Indonesia before travelling to New Zealand. India, Brazil, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea are already considered very high risk countries.
(RNZ, 2021k)
Border control
11 Aug 2021*Independent panel of experts recommends shorter MIQ stays for specific travellers
A panel of experts, comprising of epidemiologist Sir David Skegg, clinical immunologist Maia Brewerton, public health physician Philip Hill, biostatistician Dr Ella Iosua, infectious diseases expert Professor David Murdoch and Immunisation Advisory Centre director Dr Nikki Turner, releases recommendations for the first phase of reopening the borders in 2022. The panel recommends shorter MIQ stays for fully vaccinated New Zealanders returning from a trip of up to a month, with pre-departure and on-arrival tests.
(Cheng, 2021e)
Border control
2 Aug 2021*Government announces seasonal workers from certain Pacific Island nations allowed to travel to New Zealand without MIQ
From September, Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers from Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu are allowed to travel to New Zealand quarantine-free. Travellers will have to comply with their country’s quarantine requirements on return travel.
(RNZ, 2021j)
31 Jul 2021*Middlemore Hospital worker in quarantine after PPE protocol incident during medical evacuation from Fiji
A health care worker at Middlemore Hospital is moved to quarantine as a precautionary measure after an incident relating to the use of PPE in the medical evacuation of a COVID-19 patient from Fiji to New Zealand. The COVID-19 patient seeking medical treatment is a UN worker.
(NZ Herald, 2021g)
Border control
30 Jul 2021*Largest mass vaccination event
New Zealand’s largest mass vaccination event takes place at Vodafone Events Centre in South Auckland over three days from 30 July to 1 August 2021. The event seeks to increase Māori and Pasifika vaccination, specifically targeting Manukau Institute of Technology students and staff and their families.
(Neilson, 2021a; 2021c)
24 Jul 2021*Minimum sick leave entitlement increases to 10 days
On 27 May 2021, Parliament passed the Holidays (Increasing Sick Leave) Amendment Bill to increase the minimum employee sick leave entitlement from five days to 10 days per year. This takes effect from 24 July.
(Employment New Zealand, 2021)
23 Jul 2021*Lanaco provides New Zealand-made face masks for Olympic team
Lanaco supplies the New Zealand Olympic team with more than 70,000 disposable face masks. The masks are designed with respiratory filters using Helix technology from New Zealand sheep. The same technology has been chosen by NASA to protect astronauts on upcoming space missions.
(Scoop, 2021)
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
21 Jul 2021*Government spends over $250,000 on research relating to the Unite Against COVID-19 campaign
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has spent $252,945 on polling and focus groups relating to the government’s Unite Against COVID-19 campaign. The research sought to test messaging, concepts and brand effectiveness, and to understand how New Zealanders were feeling about COVID-19 and the associated public health measures.
(Neilson, 2021b)
20 Jul 2021*Reviews find clash between military and civilian culture in MIQs
A series of reviews identify ongoing issues with the ability of the military to mesh with the civilian agencies in the running of New Zealand’s MIQ facilities. Issues noted in the reports include the difference between military and civilian approaches, and the traditional ranks structure of the military not working in a civilian world.
(Fisher, 2021)
Border control
19 Jul 2021*Largest single delivery of Pfizer vaccines arrives
Over 370,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines arrive in New Zealand, surpassing the previous shipment of 150,000 doses.
(Neilson, 2021a)
12 Jul 2021*Staff shortages limit MIQ availability
Government briefings suggest that staff shortages of health and security staff are inhibiting more MIQ availability or a purpose-built quarantine facility.
(Coughlan, 2021b)
Border control
9 Jul 2021*New Zealand postpones mercy flights from New South Wales
The government announces repatriation flights out of New South Wales are postponed for at least three days. When returnees are rebooked, they will now have to spend 14 days in a managed isolation hotel, at no cost to themselves.
(RNZ, 2021i)
Border control
7 Jul 2021*500,000 New Zealanders fully vaccinated
1.2 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in New Zealand, with 500,000 people receiving two doses.
(Trevett, 2021)
7 Jul 2021*Medsafe grants provisional approval for Janssen vaccine
The single-dose Janssen vaccine is the second COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for those aged 18 and older in New Zealand. Two million doses of the Janssen vaccine were obtained through an advance purchase in 2020. Cabinet is expected to make a decision about the use of the Janssen vaccine in August.
(Trevett, 2021)
2 Jul 2021*The Economist ranks New Zealand second on ‘normalcy index’
Based on an assessment of progress with eight variables – sports attendance, time at home, traffic congestion, retail football, office occupancy, flights, film box office and public transport – New Zealand is ranked second out of 50 countries by The Economist. Hong Kong tops the list for the ‘return to normal’ ranking.
(RNZ, 2021h)
30 Jun 2021*Ombudsman releases report on inspections of aged care facilities under the Crimes of Torture Act 1989
The report makes a series of recommendations and suggestions as a result of inspections of six secure aged care facilities between 27 May and 18 June 2020 (during Alert Levels 2 and 1). It covers matters including health and safety, contact with the outside world, dignity and respect, protective measures and staffing.
(Office of the Ombudsman, 2021)
Aged residential care
30 Jun 2021*Necessary herd immunity estimates released
Modelling in a study done by New Zealand research facility Te Pūnaha Matatini reveals that 83% of New Zealanders will need to be vaccinated against less transmissible strains of COVID-19 for public health measures such as lockdowns and 14-day quarantines to become unnecessary. For more transmissible strains such as the Delta variant, the required herd immunity rate would be 97%. As per statistics released by the Ministry of Health, national potential vaccine uptake is 80%. Experts and epidemiologists emphasise that even if the threshold of immunity is met, life will not go back to 2019 standards of normal: border control, testing and contact tracing measures will still play an important, albeit reduced, role in public health.
(Pearse, 2021b; Steyn et al., 2021)
29 Jun 2021*Wellington moves to Alert Level 1
Wellington moves to Alert Level 1 at 11:59 pm. All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
26 Jun 2021*Trans-Tasman bubble paused
Quarantine-free travel from Australia to New Zealand is paused for 72 hours, from 10:30 pm on 26 June until 11:59 pm on 29 June. This is an extension of the current travel-bubble pause with New South Wales, and applies to all Australian states and territories. The change is in response to multiple outbreaks and cases in Australia and the increasing health risks these pose to New Zealand. On 29 June COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announces that from 4 July, travel will be possible from South Australia, ACT, Victoria and Tasmania, but will remain paused for NSW, Queensland and Western Australia. Travellers will be required to receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure, and they must not have been in NSW from 11:59 pm on 22 June, or in QLD, NT or WA from 10:39 pm on 26 June.
(Hipkins, 2021f; Whyte, 2021c)
Trans-Tasman bubble
24 Jun 2021*Wellington passengers removed from flight to Rarotonga
At 24 June, the travel bubble between New Zealand and the Cook Islands remains open. However, 13 passengers on an Air New Zealand flight to Rarotonga are offloaded from the plane before takeoff in response to information contained in their health declarations. The removal is implemented at the request of the Cook Islands government. Te Marae Ora Cook Islands Ministry of Health (TMO) states that the passengers were identified as ‘persons of interest’ based on their information provided on a pre-departure form. The ‘persons of interest’ were those who began their travel in Wellington or were in the city on 19 June. The Ministry explains its decision as an effort to protect the Cook Islands and to allow time to observe and assess the evolving situation in Wellington. The Ministry states that it will assess the offloaded passengers’ movements in Wellington prior to the flight, in depth, before deciding whether to allow them into the country.
(Downes et al., 2021; Thornber, 2021)
24 Jun 2021*ReCov vaccine trial begins
A group of New Zealanders are the first in the world to participate in a trial for a new second-generation COVID-19 vaccine, ReCov, developed by Chinese company Jiangsu Rec-Biotechnology. The vaccine developer is working in partnership with New Zealand Clinical Research, which will be running the trial in New Zealand. They plan to vaccinate 100 New Zealanders with ReCov by September. The test group will include a younger population and a 55+ population. The ReCov vaccine immunises against two parts of the immune system, meaning it could provide longer-lasting immunity. If the first clinical trial proves to be successful, a larger trial that covers thousands of people could be implemented.
(Preston, 2021)
23 Jun 2021*National museum closes in response to Sydney traveller case
NZ’s national museum, Te Papa, closes its doors due to being visited on 19 June by the traveller who was later confirmed to have COVID-19. In response to growing concern over the potential spread, 250 conference attendees are also evacuated from the museum. Museum representatives estimate that around 2500 people may have visited the museum in the hours between 4 pm and 5:45 pm when the traveller was there.
(Chumko, 2021)
23 Jun 2021*Sydney traveller to Wellington tests positive for Delta variant
A person who visited Wellington from 19 to 21 June tests positive for COVID-19 after returning to Sydney. The traveller had received one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The Ministry of Health releases 20 locations of interest in the Wellington CBD for contact tracing. At 1 pm on 23 June, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announces that the Wellington region will move to Alert Level 2 from 6pm that evening until 11:59 pm on 27 June. On 23 June, 6999 tests are taken nationwide, of which 2100 are in Wellington. This is five times the number of tests taken the day before. On 25 June, New South Wales officials confirm that the traveller has the Delta variant of COVID-19.
(Carroll & Pullar-Strecker, 2021; Cooke, 2021a; MOH, 2021aa)
Border control
22 Jun 2021*Vaccine shortage in Bluff
The Bluff Community Medical Trust is informed by the Ministry of Health that there is a shortage of the COVID-19 vaccine. The Trust’s local vaccination clinic is placed on hold. The Trust had intended to vaccinate patients from the first week of July. Trust leaders emphasise the high percentage of at-risk patients who are affected by the shortage, including Māori communities and immunocompromised groups. The Trust also emphasises the importance of local immunisation centres for more isolated communities that are accessible without lengthy or expensive travel.
(Cheng, 2021d)
22 Jun 2021*Trans-Tasman bubble with New South Wales paused
Travel to New Zealand from New South Wales is paused for 72 hours from 11:59 pm on 22 June, in response to growing numbers of COVID-19 community cases in Sydney. Air New Zealand cancels 28 direct services from Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown and redirects passengers to Auckland while investigations into the outbreak continue.
(Morrison, 2021; Preston, 2021)
Trans-Tasman bubble
21 Jun 2021*Provisional approval of Pfizer vaccine for 12–15-year-olds confirmed
Medsafe grants provisional approval for the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12–15-year-olds. This means that while it has Medsafe approval, the vaccine needs to meet certain conditions and more data on its efficacy needs to be collected in clinical trials. In the next month the Ministry of Health will provide the government with advice on the provisional approval and the use of the vaccine on this age group – which constitutes around 265,000 children. Schools are likely to play a key role in the immunisation scheme, in line with schemes of the past such as measles and polio. Children under the age of 16 will require parental consent, while those older will be able to give consent. A Ministry of Health survey shows resistance over youth vaccinations rising, with caregivers expressing concern over the safety for this age group.
(Neilson & Gabel, 2021; Whyte, 2021b)
20 Jun 2021*Doctors under investigation for COVID-19 misinformation
The Medical Council investigates 13 doctors in response to 26 complaints from members of the public about doctors who may have provided misinformation about COVID-19. Doctors under investigation could be struck off if they are found to have spread misinformation.
(Broughton, 2021a; 2021b)
5 Jun 2021*Vaccination and testing gaps for border workers revealed
Based on Ministry of Health data, it is revealed that approximately 3800 border workers at airports and sea ports are yet to receive a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, approximately 50% of the 50,000 household contacts of border workers are yet to receive a dose. Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield also confirms that there is a 4% non-compliance rate for MIQ workers participating in mandatory regular testing. For non-MIQ border workers, the non-compliance rate is 14%. The Ministry of Health explains this rate is the product of timing and the delayed updating of the testing register.
(Cheng, 2021c)
Border control
26 May 2021*Trans-Tasman bubble with Victoria paused
On 25 May, four COVID-19 community cases are detected in Melbourne. The Ministry of Health recommends that New Zealanders who have recently travelled to Victoria monitor their health and check locations of interest. On 22 June, the quarantine-free travel bubble resumes after several extensions and lockdowns within the state of Victoria.
(Forrester, 2021b; Walls, 2021)
Trans-Tasman bubble
19 May 2021*$1.4 billion spend on vaccine rollout revealed
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins reveals that $1.4 billion has been allocated to the COVID-19 vaccination rollout. More than $1 billion of this was used to purchase vaccines and specialist equipment.
(Whyte, 2021a)
18 May 2021*Auditor-General’s COVID-19 vaccine plan review released
Auditor-General John Ryan’s report Preparations for the nationwide rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine is released. The report raises concerns about whether the rollout will be completed by the end of 2021. It contains six major recommendations for the Ministry of Health, including continuing transparency in public communications about vaccine supply risks; completing risk planning and management; improving guidance for DHBs about potential deviations from the sequencing framework; continuing work with DHBs, Māori, Pasifika, and disability healthcare providers to ensure equity in the rollout; providing greater clarity to primary healthcare providers about their role in the rollout; and strengthening efforts to educate the public about the vaccine and encourage uptake.
(Quinn, 2021a)
16 May 2021*Weak positive in Wellington wastewater detected
The Ministry of Health detects weak positive results for COVID-19 in a wastewater treatment plant at Moa Point. On 19 May, after expanded testing, weak positive results are detected in wastewater samples from Porirua and the Wellington suburb of Karori. The Ministry considers the positive results are most likely from recently recovered cases.
(Te, 2021)
6 May 2021*Trans-Tasman bubble with NSW paused
Flights between New Zealand and New South Wales are paused from 11:59 pm on 6 May in response to the identification of two COVID-19 cases in Sydney. Quarantine-free travel between NSW and New Zealand resumes from 11:59 pm on 9 May 2021.
(Cheng, 2021b; Lyons, 2021)
Trans-Tasman bubble
6 May 2021*IP waiver for COVID-19 vaccines supported
Trade Minister Damien O’Connor announces that New Zealand supports the announcement of the US Trade Representative to work for a waiver of intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization. The waiver removes barriers to vaccine access for countries such as India and Brazil, which have been calling for these waivers as a way to ensure swift access to vaccines, especially for countries that are struggling with high levels of infection and death.
(O’Connor, 2021)
2 May 2021*Trans-Tasman bubble with Western Australia paused
Flights from Western Australia to New Zealand are cancelled on the evening of 1 May due to a security guard working in a Perth managed isolation facility testing positive for COVID-19. After a rapid public health assessment, the Ministry of Health announces that flights between WA and New Zealand can resume from 3 May 2021.
(Basagre, 2021; Vinall, 2021)
Trans-Tasman bubble
30 Apr 2021*Vaccination of border workers now mandatory
At 11:59 pm the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Vaccinations) Order 2021 comes into force. The purpose of the order (under s 3) is to prevent, and limit the risk of, the outbreak or spread of COVID-19 by requiring certain work to be carried out by affected persons who are vaccinated. The Order requires all border workers and all government officials in high-risk border settings to be vaccinated before carrying out any work. As a result of the order, nine Customs workers are fired for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. Most are able to be redeployed into other roles in which they will not be at risk. The Order is updated regularly, expanding to include people in a multitude of workforces.
(Block, 2021c; MOH, 2021z; New Zealand Government, 2021f)
29 Apr 2021*250,000 vaccination courses donated to Fiji
Associate Minister of Health and Foreign Affairs Aupito William Sio announces that New Zealand has offered Fiji enough doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for 250,000 people, and Fiji has accepted. The AstraZeneca vaccine is part of New Zealand’s domestic vaccine portfolio and has not yet received Medsafe approval, which it will require before it can be donated and used. This offer includes $2 million in Official Development Assistance to support the vaccine rollout in Fiji.
(Sio, 2021b)
23 Apr 2021*‘Very high risk’ country designation introduced
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announces a border control measure that designates countries which have had more than 50 cases of COVID-19 per 1000 arrivals and more than 15 travellers to New Zealand on average per month as ‘very high risk’. Countries that currently meet this threshold are India, Brazil, Papua New Guinea and Pakistan. The restrictions come into force at 11:59 pm on 28 April. This means that only (i) New Zealand citizens, (ii) their partners and children and (iii) parents of children who are New Zealand citizens are allowed entry into the country.
(Hipkins, 2021e)
20 Apr 2021*Border worker at Auckland Airport tests positive
A fully vaccinated border worker responsible for cleaning planes from countries with a high risk of COVID-19 infection returns a positive test for COVID-19 and is placed in isolation at home. MOH genomic testing reveals that the worker has the UK variant, and the infection is linked to a passenger who arrived in early April from Ethiopia via the United Arab Emirates.
(Martin, 2021b; MOH, 2021y; RNZ, 2021g)
Border control
19 Apr 2021*Two MIQ facilities closed due to ventilation concerns
The Grand Millennium and Grand Mercure managed isolation facilities are closed to further returnees until the end of April in response to advice from a joint Ministry of Health and MIQ technical advisory group. Both hotels have been sites of COVID-19 transmission between returnees and border workers. The ventilation systems are reviewed for potential aerosol transmission. On 18 June, Joint Head of MIQ Megan Main announces that the Grand Mercure has been confirmed safe for reopening, after an intensive deep clean and remediation of its ventilation system.
(Martin, 2021b; Pearse, 2021a)
Border control
19 Apr 2021*Trans-Tasman bubble with Australia opened
Nine Australian ports are opened for quarantine-free travel. On the first day, approximately 5000 Air New Zealand passengers are expected to travel between the two countries. Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood states that pre-pandemic travel from and to Australia represented around 40% of international business, so the bubble will be a major boost to the airport and to the tourism industry at large. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern states New Zealand will apply a discretionary country-by-country framework to the creation of other travel bubbles, such as with Pacific nations.
(Pearse et al., 2021; RNZ, 2021f)
Trans-Tasman bubble
15 Apr 2021*Vaccination rollout plan released
In addition to the approximately 200,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses already delivered, the Ministry of Health announces plans to deliver a further 1 million doses by 30 June 2021 and advises that, by the end of the year, it intends to deliver 8 million doses. On 17 June, the government announces that it will introduce an age-based structure for the vaccine rollout. This is based on the success of similar international approaches, and the increased risk of COVID by age. People aged 60 and over will be eligible first and will receive the vaccine from 28 July. The provisional vaccination timeframe indicates that those over 45 will be eligible from mid to late August, and those over 35 will be eligible from mid to late September. All people aged over 16 are eligible to receive the vaccine from October.
(Daalder, 2021; Manch, 2021b; New Zealand Government, 2021e)
15 Apr 2021*Wearable COVID-19 detection technology for border workers trialled
The Ministry of Health approves a month-long trial of the ëlarm app, created by New Zealand company Datamine, for 500 border workers. The app, which functions through wearable smart devices such as Fitbits and Apple devices, uses artificial intelligence technology to detect and inform users of physiological indicators, such as changes in heart rate and sleep, that are similar to those exhibited in people with COVID-19. Ëlarm monitoring could indicate that workers are unwell before they develop noticeable symptoms, enabling early action such as testing and self-isolation.
(MOH, 2021x; RNZ, 2021e)
14 Apr 2021*MIQ worker found to have lied over being tested
MBIE chief executive Carolyn Tremain reveals that Grand Millennium worker Case B, a security guard, was last tested for COVID-19 in November 2020, despite the requirement to be tested fortnightly. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern states that the individual had been lying to their employer, First Security, and that the employer was ultimately responsible for ensuring that employees comply with testing regulations.
(MOH, 2021w; Patterson, 2021b)
Border control
13 Apr 2021*Saliva testing and testing register mandatory for border workers
A COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing) Amendment Order 2021 is passed, requiring a regular system for screening border workers using mouth and nose swabs and taking saliva. The order also clarifies the necessary testing schedule for border workers and makes it mandatory for the Ministry of Health to keep records of testing and medical examination. The order for saliva testing comes into effect at 11:59 pm on 21 April 2021 and the order for mandatory use of the Border Worker Testing Register comes into effect on 27 April 2021.
(MOH, 2021v)
11 Apr 2021* Travel from India temporarily suspended
The government temporarily suspends entry to New Zealand from India from 4 pm on 11 April 2021 until 28 April 2021, due to a current surge in returnee COVID-19 cases. The travel suspension applies to New Zealand citizens, residents, temporary entry and transit visa holders who have been in India within the past 14 days, and to any traveller who has transited through India. The only exemptions are for diplomats who hold a post in New Zealand. Humanitarian exemptions are to be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Director-General of Health.
(New Zealand Government, 2021d)
Border control
9 Apr 2021*MIQ rapid assessment report published
A rapid assessment of the MIQ system is commissioned by MBIE. The assessment notes that facilities are working well, but makes eight high-priority recommendations. The recommendations include strengthening systems and data integrity; strengthening the IT infrastructure; completing the plan to civilianise current New Zealand Defence Force roles; cross-sectoral work with the Ministry of Health and DHBs to address health resource shortages; a review of planned support functions; continuing the National Planning Function rollout; strengthening partnerships with iwi and Māori across all regions; and formalising MIQ’s information-gathering powers in the COVID-19 Health System Response Act.
(Hendry-Tennent, 2021; Jack & Corich, 2021)
Border Control
8 Apr 2021*Strategic public health advisory group introduced
A strategic public health advisory group is established to work alongside Sir Brian Roche’s COVID-19 Independent Continuous Review, Improvement and Advice group to provide the government with advice and support on public health strategies and response post vaccine. The group, chaired by Professor Sir David Skegg, will provide independent advice and analysis based on their experience with epidemiology, infectious diseases, public health and modelling. The group could be consulted on issues such as necessary vaccination levels for border closure relaxations, reports on transmission post-vaccine, and new variants. The group will have a public-facing role in order to communicate the scientific research behind future public health choices made by the government and will run until 1 June 2022.
(Hipkins & Verrall, 2021)
7 Apr 2021*Medsafe report on Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine results released
The Ministry of Health safety regulator, Medsafe, releases its first safety report on recorded adverse events as a result of application of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine from 20 February 2021 to 6 March 2021. According to the report, of the 15,130 doses administered in this time period, 147 adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) were recorded, 143 of which were ‘non-serious.’ The most common AEFI included dizziness, headaches, nausea and fainting (termed as syncope). The three serious AEFI included in the report were all classified as allergic reactions.
(Medsafe, 2021)
6 Apr 2021*Vaccinators trained for immunisation rollout
Around 1800 people complete training for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout; the majority are from the existing pool of around 5400 authorised vaccinators. Individual DHBs will provide them with their final authorisation to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine. Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare states that people will also be able to receive vaccines from their family doctor, and emphasises the role of Māori health providers in ensuring vaccines are accessible to Māori communities.
(Block, 2021b; Coughlan, 2021a)
6 Apr 2021*Trans-Tasman quarantine-free bubble announced
Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins announce that quarantine-free travel (QFT) between Australia and New Zealand will begin on 19 April 2021. The Ministry of Health has deemed the risk of COVID-19 transmission from Australia to New Zealand as low but will maintain vigilance through the implementation of specific travel eligibility criteria and a framework to respond to outbreaks. With this framework, the government will be able to pause or suspend the bubble if public health conditions in either country decline. The Ministry of Health estimates that between 1000 and 1300 rooms will become available in MIQ as a result of the bubble. The Western Australia state government states on 6 April that it is not included in the travel bubble, meaning that travellers there from New Zealand will still have to quarantine upon arrival. However, on 9 April, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan confirms that the state will treat New Zealand as another jurisdiction under Western Australia’s controlled border regime, thus allowing quarantine-free travel.
(Ardern & Hipkins, 2021c; Forrester, 2021a; New Zealand Government, 2021c; Todd, 2021)
Trans-Tasman bubble
24 Mar 2021*Mandatory stay for MIQ fee waiver lengthened and MIQ prices for some visa holders changed
MBIE announces regulation changes for fee waivers for managed isolation. From 1 June 2021, any NZ citizen or resident will be liable for the $3100 room charge if they are returning to New Zealand for a period of less than 180 days. Prior to 1 June 2021, only those staying in New Zealand for under 90 days are liable to pay the fee. MBIE also increases charges for temporary entry class visa holders who are travelling alone or separately from a New Zealand citizen or resident family member.
(MBIE, 2021a; 2021b)
Border control
24 Mar 2021*Criteria for early vaccination applications for urgent overseas travel announced
The Government has announced the criteria for early vaccinations (outside of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout schedule released on 10 March) for those who need to travel internationally ‘on compassionate grounds or for reasons of national significance’. In order to be granted an early vaccination, applicants need to prove: that they are a New Zealand citizen, resident or visa holder; that they need to travel before 31 August 2021; and that they have made arrangements for returning to New Zealand. Applicants who have to provide or access critical care will be considered on compassionate grounds. Applicants who have to represent New Zealand in an official capacity, at significant international events, and in an official non-government capacity will be considered on the grounds that their travel will be of national significance.
(Hipkins, 2021d)
22 Mar 2021*Managed isolation worker tests positive
A managed isolation worker tests positive for COVID-19 during routine screening at the Grand Millennium Hotel MIQ facility in Auckland. The worker is asymptomatic and is isolating at home with immediate household members. One adult family member returns a weak positive result and is retested. Mt Roskill Countdown supermarket is released as a location of interest and is deep cleaned in response. The MIQ worker had already received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine – the second dose on 16 March. As at 23 March, 4658 people had received their second dose of the vaccine. On 8 April 2021, another worker at the Grand Millennium Hotel, who had not received the vaccine, is confirmed as a current COVID-19 case. Then on 11 April, a third Grand Millennium worker, who had already been self-isolating at home because they were identified as a close contact, tests positive and is moved to the Auckland quarantine facility with their partner. Whole genome sequencing is completed on 11 April and reveals a link between the cases of 22 March, 8 April and 11 April, who become Cases A, B and C respectively.
(Cheng, 2021a; MOH, 2021t; 2021u)
Border control
19 Mar 2021*Government funding boost for Pacific health providers and communities announced
The government provides dedicated funding for Pacific communities during the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, including investments in Pacific service delivery options and provides, the creation of dedicated social media outreach to Pacific communities, and enabling community-based delivery for easy access to the vaccine. Pacific health providers will also have discretionary powers to immunise family members who accompany older people, disabled people and people with relevant underlying health conditions to their appointments.
(Sio, 2021a)
19 Mar 2021*COVID-19 chapter introduced to Immunisation Handbook 2020
The Ministry of Health updates the Immunisation Handbook 2020 to include a chapter entitled ‘Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)’. The handbook provides clinical guidelines for health professionals on the safe and effective use of vaccines in their presence. The chapter details COVID-19 virology and current scientific evidence on the efficacy, dosage and recommended immunisation schedule of Comirnaty, the Pfizer/BioNTech mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine that the government has approved for use in New Zealand.
(MOH, 2021s)
18 Mar 2021*April opening for two-way trans-Tasman bubble planned
The government is developing plans to open up a quarantine-free trans-Tasman bubble for Australian travellers by the end of April 2021. Safe travel zones between New Zealand, the Cook Islands and Niue are also under discussion. This would enable travellers from these countries to arrive in New Zealand without two weeks of mandatory quarantine. This is conditional on zero community outbreaks in the meantime. A multilateral draft arrangement between Australia and New Zealand had been discussed on 4 February, with intentions to open the bubble by end of March, but Australia had subsequently decided to take an independent approach and backed out of the initial agreement.
(Patterson, 2021a; Scotcher, 2021)
Trans-Tasman bubble
12 Mar 2021*Auckland moves to Alert Level 1
Auckland moves to Alert Level 1 at 12 pm. All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
11 Mar 2021* Rapid reviews of COVID-19 national response released
The government proactively releases two rapid reviews of its response to COVID-19. Both reviews were commissioned by the Chair of the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination (ODESC), a national security committee of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The first review, dated 23 April 2020 and chaired by Sir Brian Roche, considers the approximate initial first four weeks of the government response. The second review, dated 30 October 2020 and chaired by Rebecca Kitteridge, focuses on the response to the Auckland August resurgence and subsequent lockdown.
(ODESC, 2020a; 2020b)
10 Mar 2021*Government vaccination schedule released
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announces the government’s vaccination schedule for New Zealand, which targets those ‘most at risk of getting and spreading COVID-19’ and those ‘most at risk of getting seriously sick from it’ as the first recipients of vaccines in the next phase of the rollout. The schedule defines four main groups in line for the vaccine. Group 1 are the border workers and their household contacts, who will receive vaccines from February to May. Group 2 are frontline workers and people living in ‘high-risk’ settings, including 57,000 healthcare workers and people over the age of 65 living in the Counties Manukau DHB area. They will also receive vaccinations from February to May. Group 3, who will begin receiving vaccinations in May, are the ‘priority population’ of around 1.7 million people at higher risk if they catch COVID-19, including those over the age of 65 and those with relevant underlying health conditions. Group 4 includes the remainder of the general population – around 2 million people – who will be vaccinated from July onward.
(Hipkins, 2021c; Manch, 2021a)
9 Mar 2021*First large-scale COVID-19 vaccination clinic opened
The second stage of the COVID-19 immunisation scheme begins in a newly established large-scale clinic located in the South Auckland suburb of East Tāmaki, with the rollout of jabs for border and MIQ workers’ household contacts. Two other clinics in West Auckland and Auckland central are on track to open in the coming weeks. These will also focus on the immunisation of household contacts of workers in MIQ and at the border.
(Martin & Sommerville, 2021)
9 Mar 2021*New special advisory group for COVID-19 response established
A special advisory group is established to ensure that the government’s COVID-19 response continues to adapt and improve. This group will perform an independent review and provide impartial advice on the performance and impact of the COVID-19 response system and its strategic direction. This group will also provide assurances on the performance and settings of managed isolation and quarantine facilities, and on planning for outbreaks. The group comprises Sir Brian Roche (Chair), Rob Fyfe, Dr Debbie Ryan, Professor Phillip Hill and Dr Dale Bramley.
(Hipkins, 2021b)
8 Mar 2021*Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine purchased for all New Zealanders
The government announces it has signed an agreement to purchase an additional 8.5 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and that delivery is expected in the second half of 2021. This purchase raises the total Pfizer order from an initial 1.5 million doses secured in October 2020 to 10 million total doses. The total dose order will be enough for 5 million people to receive the two shots necessary for full vaccination. The Ministry of Health is considering donating surplus doses to Pacific nations and to developing countries around the world and/or delaying delivery to enable other countries to obtain doses.
(Ardern & Hipkins, 2021)
7 Mar 2021*Air New Zealand crew member tests positive
A crew member, who originally tested negative on arrival (28 February) and received the first jab of the COVID-19 vaccine on 3 March, tests positive after a further swab taken as part of routine mandatory testing. The individual is moved to the Auckland quarantine facility while household contacts and workmates are also tested. After genomic testing it is confirmed on 9 February that the case is the Russian variant.
(Chen, 2021; MOH, 2021r; NZ Herald, 2021f)
Border control
7 Mar 2021*Auckland moves down to Alert Level 2 and the rest of New Zealand to Alert Level 1
Auckland moves to Level 2 at 6am and the rest of New Zealand to Level 1. There have been no new cases for a week.
(Leahy, 2021)
Alert level
4 Mar 2021*Wage Subsidy March 2021 becomes available
The Wage Subsidy March 2021 is available from 4 March 2021 to 21 March 2021. It is to help employers and self-employed people keep paying staff and protect jobs impacted by the alert level changes on 28 February 2021.
(Work and Income, n.d.[b])
Financial support
28 Feb 2021*Auckland moves up to Alert Level 3 and rest of country moves to Alert Level 2 for a week
Auckland moves to Level 3 at 6am and the rest of New Zealand moves to Level 2. This is set to last a week. However, there is the possibility it could be extended. At the press conference held on 27 February, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expresses frustration over Case M’s breach of isolation rules in the period of time between receiving a COVID-19 test and receiving its results, and calls for New Zealanders to ‘please follow the rules on behalf of everyone.’
(Martin, 2021a; New Zealand Government, 2021b)
Alert level
27 Feb 2021*Further case detected (Valentine’s Day outbreak)
A new case (Case M) is identified in Auckland: they are the older sibling of a Papatoetoe High School student who was a casual-plus contact and who had returned three negative tests. Interviews are undertaken to establish how the new case was infected. MOH releases locations of interest; it initially names the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) Ōtara campus but later retracts this and confirms that the correct location of interest is the MIT Manukau campus. The Ministry also incorrectly reports the workplace of Case M. Two further people in the household of Case M test positive on 28 February. They are asymptomatic and are named Case N and Case O.
(Block, 2021a; MOH, 2021p; 2021q)
Community outbreak
25 Feb 2021*Office of the Auditor-General to review vaccination programme
The Office of the Auditor-General announces it will review the vaccination programme while it is being planned and through the early stages of its rollout, assessing how well set up the programme is, how well its associated systems and processes are working, and identifying any areas for improvement so that changes can be made. This review is the first phase of the Office’s intended work on the vaccination programme.
(OAG, 2021b)
23 Feb 2021*Further community case detected (Valentine’s Day outbreak)
A new community case (Case I) emerges – a student from Papatoetoe High School in Auckland. This is connected to the initial case at Papatoetoe High School identified on 14 February. The Ministry of Health requests that the High School close again until further notice (following its earlier 15–19 February closure). The Ministry also requests that all students and staff be retested. Later the same day, two siblings of Case I also test positive for COVID-19 and become cases J and K. A further household contact of cases I, J and K tests positive on 26 February after initially testing negative on arrival into quarantine on 23 February. They become Case L.
(MOH, 2021m; 2021n; 2021o)
Community outbreak
23 Feb 2021*Office of the Auditor-General to review central response to COVID-19
The Office of the Auditor-General announces it will conduct a performance audit of the COVID-19 response of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC). The audit will evaluate how well the DPMC has co-ordinated the national response, as well as the extent to which improvements have been noted and implemented during the response, in order to prepare New Zealand for future outbreaks.
(OAG, 2021a)
22 Feb 2021*Air New Zealand trials global digital travel pass
Air New Zealand announces it will trial the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass app on its Auckland–Sydney route in April. The app creates a ‘digital health wallet’ for customers that is linked to their e-passport and that can securely receive data from labs about test results and vaccination statuses. The app checks requirements for travel against the data, so that customers who meet their travel requirements can be given approval to travel. The trial will run for three weeks and both aircrew and customers will be able to join it. Air New Zealand is in conversations with government agencies over the validation of testing and vaccinations.
(Air New Zealand, 2021b)
22 Feb 2021*Auckland moves to Alert Level 1
Auckland moves to Alert Level 1 at 11:59 pm. All of New Zealand is now at Alert Level 1.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
20 Feb 2021*Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination programme begins
The vaccination of border workers begins in Auckland after a trial run of the vaccine has been completed on a group of 29 vaccinators on 19 February. These 29 vaccinators will start off the largest immunisation programme in New Zealand history. On 22 February, the first group of border workers in Wellington receive vaccinations, and on 24 February, the vaccination programme begins in the South Island with 40 border workers from Christchurch Airport vaccinated.
(MOH, 2021j; 2021k; 2021l)
17 Feb 2021*New community case linked to Valentine’s Day outbreak
Two new cases linked to the existing Auckland Valentine's Day cluster are identified. Both are students at Papatoetoe High School and are known as cases D and E. Case F, a household contact of D and E, is included in reporting figures on 18 February and is transferred alongside D and E to the Auckland quarantine facility. On 19 February, a further household contact of these cases tests positive for COVID-19. This new case (Case G) is moved to the Auckland quarantine facility, as is the one additional member of the existing household that has tested negative previously. On 22 February, this additional household member tests positive in quarantine and becomes Case H.
(MOH, 2021f; 2021g; 2021h; 2021i)
Community outbreak
17 Feb 2021*Auckland moves down to Alert Level 2 and the rest of New Zealand to Alert Level 1
Auckland moves back to Level 2 at 11.59pm, while the rest of New Zealand moves to Level 1.
(New Zealand Government, 2021b)
Alert level
14 Feb 2021*Trans-Tasman travel bubble suspended
In response to the changing alert levels and detection of community COVID-19 cases in Auckland, Australia reinstates mandatory hotel quarantine for travellers from New Zealand. The one-way trans-Tasman bubble is briefly fully restored from 21 February 2021, on the condition that travellers who have been in Auckland in the past 14 days provide a negative PCR test at check-in. On 24 February 2021, the Australian Chief Medical Officer designates Auckland as a ‘Commonwealth hotspot’ in response to new cases. Any travellers who had been in Auckland in the past 14 days are banned from travelling on ‘green flights’ (quarantine-free flights) to Australia. Other New Zealand travellers who have not been in Auckland in the past 14 days are permitted to travel on green flights. This is effective until 11:59 pm AEDT on 11 March 2021.
(AGDOH, 2021; Bucklow, 2021)
Trans-Tasman bubble
14 Feb 2021*Auckland moves up to Alert Level 3 and rest of the country to Alert Level 2
In response to the COVID-19 cases detected in the community, Auckland goes into Alert Level 3 at 11.59pm for 72 hours and the rest of the country is placed under Alert Level 2 restrictions.
(New Zealand Government, 2021b)
Alert level
14 Feb 2021*Three community cases identified in South Auckland (‘Valentine’s Day outbreak’)
A mother, father and daughter from the same South Auckland household have all tested positive for COVID-19 and are moved from their home to the Auckland quarantine facility. They are identified as cases A, B and C. The Ministry of Health identifies close contacts of the three cases, and Papatoetoe High School and PAK’nSAVE Manukau become locations of interest. An additional pop-up testing centre is set up at Papatoetoe High School specifically for students, parents, caregivers and staff.
(MOH, 2021e; RNZ, 2021d)
Community outbreak
3 Feb 2021*Medsafe gives Pfizer vaccine provisional approval
Medicine regulating body Medsafe gives provisional approval for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, following assessment of its effectiveness and quality, safety data and manufacturing data. Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield notes this as a significant milestone in regard to the COVID-19 vaccination process. Minor side-effects of the vaccine can include a painful arm and headaches. Medsafe is to monitor the use of the vaccine in New Zealand, including analysis of reports of potential side-effects.
(MOH, 2021d)
28 Jan 2021*Mandatory room confinement after day-12 test for arrivals
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announces that all returnees in managed isolation across New Zealand are now required to remain in their rooms after receiving their final day-12 COVID-19 test until they exit managed isolation on day 14. The measure aims to minimise potential infection in the final few days in MIQ, which could go undetected until after the returnee has re-entered normal life.
(RNZ, 2021c)
Border control
28 Jan 2021*Pullman Hotel placed under major restrictions
After several cases emerge at the Pullman Hotel managed isolation facility, returnee movement is heavily restricted, with no new arrivals or departures from the facility. Increased ventilation and deep cleaning have also been introduced in order to address potential infection through fomites and droplets. The Ministry of Health seeks returnees who had left the facility during the period of potential infection in order to test them and identify any further possible community cases.
(NZ Herald, 2021e)
Border control
27 Jan 2021*Additional cases linked to earlier MIQ case
Ashley Bloomfield announces that two further people isolating at the Pullman Hotel at the same time as the Northland case are confirmed to have COVID-19. The two cases are transferred to a quarantine facility, and genomic sequencing confirms that they are both the variant first identified in South Africa. The partner of one of these cases is later confirmed as having COVID-19. A further case, known as the Hamilton case, is confirmed on 6 February, making four people who have tested positive for COVID-19 after leaving the Pullman.
(Earley, 2021; Hunt, 2021; MOH, 2021b; 2021c)
Border control
26 Jan 2021*Immunisation scheme given provisional timetable
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announces that the government’s first focus will be vaccinating border staff, managed isolation and quarantine workers and their close contacts. Hipkins states that the government hopes to begin a vaccination scheme for the wider population by mid-2021. Cabinet has set aside $983.7 million from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to secure vaccine access for New Zealand, as this will be the largest immunisation scheme in New Zealand’s history.
(Ardern & Hipkins, 2021a)
25 Jan 2021*Government grants legal indemnity to Pfizer and BioNTech
The government grants pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech indemnity for the vaccines they are providing to New Zealanders. The request for indemnity has come as a result of the need to fast-track the clinical trial process to address the pandemic. Governments often offer indemnity to pharmaceutical companies for pandemic vaccines. This protects Pfizer and BioNTech from potential legal action and means that the government will take on the liability. Further indemnity agreements with other pharmaceutical companies are expected and will be considered by Treasury on a case-by-case basis.
(Strang, 2021)
25 Jan 2021*Mask wearing now required on all international Air NZ flights
Air New Zealand announces that all passengers on their international flights will now be required to wear face coverings. This is an extension of the existing mask mandate for all domestic flights and some international flights.
(Air New Zealand, 2021a)
25 Jan 2021*Australia suspends travel bubble in response to South African variant
The quarantine-free travel bubble with certain Australian states is suspended in response to the Northland community case with the South African strain of COVID-19, detected on 24 January. All travellers from New Zealand to Australia are now required to go through hotel quarantine upon arrival, and people who arrived between 14 and 24 January are asked to isolate and get tested.
(BBC News, 2021)
Trans-Tasman bubble
24 Jan 2021*Northland community case found to have South African variant
A 56-year-old woman in Northland tests positive for COVID-19 after leaving MIQ. She had travelled from the UK, and had tested negative for COVID-19 twice while in managed isolation. Dr Ashley Bloomfield states that the woman has been ‘assiduous’ in using the COVID-19 Tracer app. Businesses she had visited in Northland, Auckland and Waikato close in response to government advice, and people who visited these locations are advised to stay home, get tested and call Healthline. The woman is found to have the South African strain of the coronavirus, which may be more transmissible than the original version.
(Boyle, 2021; MOH, 2021a; NZ Herald, 2021b; 2021c; 2021d)
Border control
21 Jan 2021*Cook Islands one-way travel bubble begins
The first quarantine-free flight of travellers from Rarotonga arrives in Auckland. This is the first travel bubble that has been established between New Zealand and a Pacific country; it is currently a one-way corridor which is predicted to open to New Zealand travellers in the first quarter of 2021.
(Granville & Tokalau, 2021)
Pacific bubble
19 Jan 2021*Pre-departure testing becomes mandatory for arrivals
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins announces that all travellers to New Zealand (with a few exemptions) must provide documentation of a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test upon arrival in order to contend with the high rates of infection globally. Travellers from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands are exempt from the pre-departure test, but are still required to spend two weeks in managed isolation. From 8 February 2021, arrivals who do not provide evidence of a negative test will incur an infringement offence fee or a fine of up to $1000.
(Hipkins, 2021a)
Border control
16 Jan 2021*COVID-19 contamination discovered in ice cream made in China with New Zealand ingredients
Health officials in the Chinese municipality of Tianjin announce that three samples of ice cream made from New Zealand milk powder have returned a positive COVID-19 test. The manufacturer, Tianjin Daqiaodao Food Company, has since sealed and contained all products. Experts believe that the contamination was likely a one-off event due to hygiene at the production plant. The Ministry for Primary Industries does not consider that New Zealand ingredients were the source of the contamination.
(NZ Herald, 2021a)
14 Jan 2021*Border exception announced for 1000 returning international tertiary students
The government announces a border exception for 1000 international tertiary students who began their study in New Zealand and hold or have held a visa to study in 2020, but were caught offshore when the borders closed in March 2020. Their return will be staggered, beginning with a cohort of 300 in April. They will still be required to quarantine upon arrival and will be charged for their stay in managed isolation.
(New Zealand Government, 2021b)
Border control
13 Jan 2021*Drop in use of COVID Tracer app
Data from the Ministry of Health shows a drop in the number of daily scans using QR codes and manual entries on the COVID Tracer app, with a total of 407,301 scans in the 24 hours from 1 pm on 9 January 2021. This compares with the peak of 2.5 million daily scans in September 2020.
(Kirkness, 2021)
Track and tracing
12 Jan 2021*Day 0/1 test mandatory for all arrivals and pre-departure testing for those from UK and US
The government introduces the requirement that all returnees (with a few exemptions) must take a day 0/1 test upon entry to the country in addition to the established day 3 and 12 tests. The day 0/1 test will be effective from 18 January; travellers from Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Islands will be exempt. Dr Ashley Bloomfield also announces that travellers to New Zealand from the UK and US must provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken prior to departure.
(Walls, 2021a)
Border control
3 Jan 2021*First UK variant of COVID identified in managed isolation facilities
Over the three days to 3 January 2021 there are 19 new cases of COVID-19 reported in managed isolation facilities. Six of these are identified as the highly transmissible UK variant.
(RNZ, 2021b)
Border control
28 Dec 2020*Day 0/1 test mandatory for travellers from high-risk countries
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announces further border measures for travellers from high-risk countries due to new variants. An additional immediate test for COVID-19 on arrival in New Zealand becomes mandatory for travellers from the UK or USA from 31 December 2020 due to concern over the introduction of the new and highly transmissible COVID-19 variant discovered in the UK.
(New Zealand Government, 2020d)
Border control
21 Dec 2020*MOH reports $37 million of defective PPE purchased
The Ministry of Health’s annual report for the year ending June 2020 notes that the ministry spent $37 million on defective or otherwise substandard PPE intended for front-line health-care workers in response to COVID-19 (the total PPE spend was $108m). A ministry spokesperson states that substandard PPE was purchased because of the global constraints on the PPE supply chain in March and April 2020, which led to the government purchasing from new suppliers at an accelerated pace without the usual pre-purchase quality checks. In total, the MOH wrote down the value of the stock by $71.5 million to reflect its estimated market value as at the balance date (this includes $37m of defective stock and $34.5m of existing stock).
(MOH, 2020; RNZ, 2021a)
18 Dec 2020*COVID health support funding extended to June 2022
This will enable the existing elimination strategy to continue through the funding of testing, contact tracing and maintenance of the MIQ model operating at the border.
(New Zealand Government, 2020c)
17 Dec 2020*Agreement to purchase 7.6 million AstraZeneca and 10.72 million Novavax vaccines
‘The new agreements secure access to 7.6 million doses from AstraZeneca – enough for 3.8 million people, and 10.72 million doses from Novavax – enough for 5.36 million people.’ Ardern further announces that border workers and essential staff will be first priority in the vaccination queue.
(Ardern et al., 2020)
17 Dec 2020*$75 million vaccine support package announced for Pacific nations
The government announces a $75 million support package that will provide vaccine access for Pacific nations. New Zealand’s vaccine coverage will include the Realm of New Zealand (Tokelau, Niue and the Cook Islands) and other Polynesian states (Tonga, Samoa and Tuvalu), subject to their governments’ acceptance.
(New Zealand Government, 2020b)
15 Dec 2020*COVID resurgence plan put in place for summer
The COVID-19 resurgence plan aims to contend with the public health challenges of travel and large public gatherings throughout summer. The plan accounts for potential scenarios such as outbreaks at campsites and musical festivals, and includes a resurgence support payment for sectors such as hospitality and events that could be disrupted by rising cases and changing alert levels.
(McCullough, 2020b; RNZ, 2020c)
14 Dec 2020*Trans-Tasman quarantine-free bubble agreed in principle
Cabinet agrees in principle to a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia, ideally to be in place during the first quarter of 2021. The feasibility of the bubble is dependent on confirmation from the Australian Cabinet and public health circumstances in both New Zealand and Australia.
(RNZ, 2020b)
Trans-Tasman bubble
10 Dec 2020*COVID Tracer app updated with Bluetooth functionality
A Bluetooth tracing update to the government’s COVID Tracer app goes live from 10 December. The update allows users to be alerted if they have been near another app user who tests positive. COVID-19 Response Minister Hon Chris Hipkins labels the update as an additional tool that is to be used alongside regular QR code scanning.
(Hipkins, 2020)
Track and tracing
4 Dec 2020*Emergency application criteria for MIQ updated
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment updates the range of circumstances under which New Zealanders overseas can apply for an emergency allocation in managed isolation. Prior to this, only those who had serious health issues qualified for an emergency allocation. This update introduces a tiered system to the application process. Those with serious medical needs are prioritised under category 1. Category 2 applications include people who need to provide critical care for a dependant in New Zealand, or who are entering New Zealand to visit a dying relative and will be unlikely to arrive in time if they go through the established Managed Isolation Allocation System (MIAS).
(MBIE, 2020c)
Border control
19 Nov 2020*Agreement in principle to purchase 5 million Janssen vaccines
The government announces an in-principle agreement with Janssen Pharmaceutica to purchase up to 5 million vaccines, subject to successful results from clinical trials and New Zealand regulatory assessments. The Janssen vaccine is likely a single-dose vaccine, meaning that 5 million people could be fully vaccinated with the product.
(Woods, 2020)
18 Nov 2020*Masks now mandatory for public transport in Auckland and all domestic flights
From 11.59pm, masks are mandatory for all passengers on domestic flights throughout New Zealand, on all public transport to, from and through Auckland, and for all Auckland taxi and ride-share drivers. Taxi and ride-share passengers in Auckland are encouraged but not legally required to wear masks.
(New Zealand Government, 2020a)
18 Oct 2020*Port worker tests positive for COVID-19
After 22 consecutive days of no community cases, a port worker who had worked at Taranaki and Auckland ports tests positive for COVID-19 and is placed in isolation along with his family. This is the first community case in New Zealand in 22 days and the man is believed to have contracted the virus at the border rather than through community transmission. As at 21 October 2020, two additional cases are connected to the 18 October port worker case. Of the 23 new border cases, 18 are from Russian and Ukrainian fishing crews who arrived from Moscow on 16 October.
(Ainge Roy, 2020; Graham-McLay, 2020)
Border control
18 Oct 2020*New Zealand travellers detained in Perth
Twenty-four New Zealanders who arrived in New South Wales under the new travel bubble and travelled through to Perth are placed into hotel quarantine in accordance with Western Australia’s quarantine mandates. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews says that the state did not agree to a travel bubble with New Zealand but cannot place New Zealand travellers in quarantine, as Victoria had not implemented quarantine mandates for interstate travel.
(RNZ, 2020a)
Trans-Tasman bubble
16 Oct 2020*New Zealand travellers detained in Melbourne
Fourteen travellers from New Zealand are detained after taking connecting flights to Melbourne from Sydney. The state of Victoria – unlike New South Wales and the Northern Territory – had not entered into any agreement with the New Zealand government to allow quarantine-free travel for New Zealanders.
(NZ Herald, 2020b)
Trans-Tasman bubble
16 Oct 2020*NSW and Northern Territory bubble begins
New Zealanders are now permitted to travel to two Australian states, New South Wales and the Northern Territory, without mandatory quarantine on arrival, as per agreements with officials from both states.
(NZ Herald, 2020a)
Trans-Tasman bubble
12 Oct 2020*Agreement to purchase 1.5 million Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines signed
The government announces that it has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech, provided that the vaccine successfully completes all clinical trials and is met with regulatory approval in New Zealand. The earliest projected delivery of the vaccines is in the first quarter of 2021, according to Minister of Research, Science and Innovation Hon Dr Megan Woods.
(Woods & Hipkins, 2020)
7 Oct 2020Auckland moves down to Level 1
As of 11.59pm, the whole country is now at Level 1. Community transmissions remain low and infrequent and measures of prevention continue to evolve as new incidents unfold and information emerges.
(New Zealand Government, 2020a)
Alert level
5 Oct 2020Managed Isolation Allocation System established
Everyone who is planning to arrive in New Zealand must first register using the Managed Isolation Allocation System (MIAS) as the first step towards securing a place in a managed isolation facility.
(MOH, 2020q)
Border control
2 Oct 2020Trans-Tasman travel changes announced
Australia announces that from 16 October, New Zealanders will be able to travel to New South Wales and the Northern Territory without being required to quarantine upon arrival. Australians will continue to have to isolate when entering New Zealand. The New Zealand government has indicated that in order for there to be quarantine-free travel into New Zealand, the departure location should have had no community transmissions for a period of 28 days.
(RNZ, 2020z; Yardley, 2020)
Trans-Tasman bubble
23 Sep 2020First ‘historical cases’ emerge
In their daily count of new virus cases, the government announces six historical cases (one confirmed and five probable), all from one family, who were exposed to an infected person from Italy. These cases have only just been discovered. The infection had occurred in late February; however, the family did not get tested as they did not meet the defined symptoms at the time. Following the return of mild symptoms, the historical confirmed case was tested and returned a weak positive result, consistent with an old infection. The man had experienced the first symptoms on 21 February, making it now the first recorded case of COVID-19 in New Zealand, one week earlier than what was previously recorded as the first case.
(MOH, 2020p)
23 Sep 2020*Auckland moves to Alert Level 2
Auckland joins the rest of New Zealand at Alert Level 2 at 11:59 pm. This comes without extra restrictions on travel and gatherings.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
21 Sep 2020*Coalition government invests in global COVAX facility
The government invests $27 million into vaccine development and manufacturing with the global COVAX facility. This investment functions as a pre-purchase should any of the COVAX vaccine candidates prove to be successful. It is part of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy introduced in May, which emphasises support of global research and manufacturing capacities.
(Peters, 2020)
21 Sep 2020Most of New Zealand moves down to Level 1
The Government announces that all of New Zealand, except for Auckland, will move to Level 1 at 11.59pm. Auckland remains in Level 2 until 6 October 2020.
(New Zealand Government, 2020a; NZ Herald, 2020h)
Alert level
6 Sep 2020Stricter rules put in place for the testing of border workers
The COVID-19 second wave in Auckland is thought to be due to border failure; it is reported that 60% of staff working at the borders have not been tested for COVID-19. At midnight on 6 September, the COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing) Order 2020 comes into effect. It requires workers to receive routine tests if they work in a managed isolation facility, weekly tests if they work in a quarantine facility, or fortnightly tests if they are a high-risk border worker at the Ports of Auckland, Port of Tauranga and Auckland International Airport.
(Daalder, 2020c; MOH, 2020o; RNZ, 2020y)
Border control
4 Sep 2020First COVID-19 death from second wave announced
The first death linked to New Zealand’s second wave is a man in his 50s from Auckland. On 6 September, the total number of active cases is 116; 39 are imported and 77 are community cases. The total number of confirmed cases to date is 1421.
(MOH, 2020n; RNZ, 2020x)
Community outbreak
31 Aug 2020Government launches review on misinformation
The Ministry of Health is to review a communications breakdown that saw 700,000 people in West and South Auckland incorrectly told to get tested for COVID-19 even if they do not have symptoms. The message states: ‘If you’re in South or West Auckland, or if you have a greater risk of poor health outcomes if you were to get Covid-19, even if you don’t have symptoms, please have a test.’ This results in testing stations being inundated with citizens demanding a test. This was posted on the government’s official COVID-19 Facebook page but the advice was deleted three days later.
(NZ Herald, 2020g; University of Auckland, n.d.; Walls, 2020b)
31 Aug 2020Face masks become mandatory on public transport
On 30 August at 11.59pm, Auckland drops from Level 3 to a version of Level 2 with extra restrictions, while the rest of the country remains on Level 2. The adaptation of Level 2 in Auckland impacts social gatherings, limiting groups to a maximum of ten. The following day, wearing a face mask becomes mandatory on public transport for everyone in the country aged 12 or over (with health, disability and practicality exemptions). From 23 September, masks are only required on planes and Auckland public transport. After Auckland moves to Level 1 on 7 October, masks are no longer mandated. However, on 16 November, after several community cases linked to an Auckland MIQ facility, the government announces that from 19 November masks will be mandatory on Auckland public transport and all domestic flights.
(BBC, 2020; Hipkins, 2020b; New Zealand Government, 2020a; 2020c; RNZ, 2020w)
26 Aug 2020Committee on Surveillance Plan and Testing Strategy established
Minister of Health Chris Hipkins establishes an advisory committee to oversee the implementation of the COVID-19 Surveillance Plan and Testing Strategy. The Surveillance Plan aims ‘to understand the burden of COVID-19 disease and SARS-CoV-2 infection in the New Zealand population in order to inform the COVID-19 response’ and ‘to assess the effectiveness and equity of public health strategies to control the disease’. The group is co-chaired by Sir Brian Roche and Heather Simpson.
(Hipkins, 2020a)
26 Aug 2020Composition of the national reserve supply updated
The national reserve supplies (NRSs) aim to ensure that DHBs and the wider health sector have continued access to specific critical supplies during a pandemic. There have been frequent calls for the composition register to be updated more regularly on the Ministry of Health’s website. The previous update was on 28 January 2020, a full seven months earlier.
(McGuinness Institute, pers. comm., 22 April 2020; MOH, 2020m)
National reserve supply
21 Aug 2020*Resurgence Wage Subsidy becomes available
The Resurgence Wage Subsidy is available from 21 August 2020 to 3 September 2020. It is for employers and self-employed people who would otherwise have to lay off staff or reduce their hours due to COVID-19.
(Work and Income, n.d.[a])
Financial support
20 Aug 2020*Massey University researchers release vaccination survey results
Massey University researchers Dr R. G. Vishnu Menon and Dr Jagadish Thaker release research undertaken in mid-2020 into the attitudes of the New Zealand public towards vaccination in general and the coronavirus vaccine in particular. Their research finds that 74% of those surveyed intend to get vaccinated against COVID-19 when a vaccine becomes available. They also find that Māori survey participants are less willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine than other New Zealanders. Survey participants report protection of family and protection of self as the two most common reasons for wanting to receive the vaccine.
(Menon & Thaker, 2020)
19 Aug 2020QR code poster becomes mandatory for all businesses
All businesses and workplaces are legally required to display a NZ COVID Tracer QR code. The poster must be displayed in a prominent place at each location in order to enable New Zealanders to use the government’s COVID-19 tracing app effectively.
(New Zealand Government, n.d.[h]; Todd, 2020)
Track and tracing
19 Aug 2020First nine days of lockdown found to be illegal
Lawyer Andrew Borrowdale requests a judicial review of the lockdown orders made between 25 March 2020 (11:59 pm) and 13 May 2020 (11:59 pm). Borrowdale does not challenge the merits of the government response, but whether the restrictions imposed were within the law. The High Court releases its verdict, which is that the first nine days of lockdown between 26 March and 4 April were unlawful. Under the Health Act 1956, the government could lawfully impose the restriction of social gatherings, but could not legally enforce the restrictions on personal movement requiring New Zealanders to ‘stay at home’ and ‘stay in their bubble’. The Court rules this a breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.
(Borrowdale v Director General of Health, 2020; Simpson Grierson, 2020)
18 Aug 2020Ombudsman’s Report on Inspections of Aged Care Facilities released
Six inspections take place between 17 April and 8 May 2020 of secure aged care facilities in Auckland, Christchurch and Waikato. Twenty-one suggestions are made, including that each facility should ‘consider the size and integrity of its “bubble”, and [be] clear and consistent in its “bubble” management during the pandemic’ and that residents are better ‘supported to express their concerns and make complaints’.
(Office of the Ombudsman, 2020b: 8, 10, 21, 22)
Aged residential care
17 Aug 20202020 general election postponed
The general election, initially scheduled for 19 September, is postponed until 17 October, as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Auckland. The dissolution of Parliament, which was supposed to have happened on 12 August, is pushed out to 6 September. This is the fourth time in New Zealand’s history that elections have been postponed, the other postponements being due to the First World War, the Great Depression and the Second World War.
(Hendry-Tennent, 2020)
12 Aug 2020*Auckland moves to Alert Level 3
At 12pm the Auckland region moves to Alert Level 3. The rest of New Zealand moves to Alert Level 2. On 14 August, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces that the Alert Levels will remain for 12 more days.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
11 Aug 2020Move up to Alert Level 2 and 3 announced (second wave begins)
After 102 days without community transmission in New Zealand, four people test positive for COVID-19 in Auckland. On 31 July a worker at the Mount Wellington branch of the Americold cool store company becomes ill but is not tested. On 11 August his co-worker becomes ill; he and his family of four test positive for COVID-19. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces that from noon the following day, Auckland will move to Alert Level 3 and the rest of New Zealand will move to Alert Level 2. Significant concerns are raised for the Pasifika and church communities. For the first time genome sequencing is used to help track the outbreak’s spread and link new community cases to prior confirmed cases. The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Juliet Gerrard states: ‘There were several instances where we were reassured that seemingly unconnected clusters were actually closely linked. There were other times when the specific mutation in a sequence significantly narrowed the search for the contact tracers. Without that information, we would have been in the dark about whether new cases lacking a known link to the cluster were due to another source (e.g. a managed isolation facility) or were in fact linked to the community outbreak.’
(Ardern, 2020g; Daalder, 2020b; Neilson, 2020; New Zealand Government, 2020a)
Alert level
11 Aug 2020Cost of managed isolation to be charged to some arrivals
New Zealand citizens or residents returning to the country for less than 90 days, or who leave New Zealand after 11 August, or those holding temporary visas (with exceptions) are asked to contribute to the costs of their 14 days of managed isolation. As at 13 October, there are 32 managed isolation facilities, with an effective capacity of 7263 beds, of which 4776 are occupied.
(MBIE, 2020b; 2020c; Woods, 2020)
Border control
6 Aug 2020Clark calls for inquiry into New Zealand’s response to COVID-19
The 2017 New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan: A framework for action was designed for an influenza pandemic, not a novel coronavirus. Former Prime Minister Helen Clark believes New Zealand needs a time of ‘reflection’ in the form of an inquiry into the response to COVID-19 in order to help the country be better prepared for future pandemics. Clark states: ‘We have to learn the lessons. In many ways, we dodged a bullet. We were not ready for this.’
(Murphy, 2020)
6 Aug 2020CovidCard trial in Rotorua announced
The government announces it will perform its second trial of the CovidCard with 250–300 people in the Rotorua region.
(Moir, 2020)
Track and tracing
10 Jul 2020WHO announces investigation into its handling of pandemic
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark is selected to co-lead the investigation into WHO’s handling of COVID-19. Clark will join Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia, on the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. The investigation ‘will analyse where the coronavirus originated and how to prevent the future outbreak of pandemics, as well as how countries responded to the virus’.
(RNZ, 2020v)
7 Jul 2020Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines asked to manage arrivals
The government calls on both airlines to manage international bookings in order to prevent managed isolation facilities being overwhelmed. Air New Zealand advises that over 5000 people are booked to arrive back in New Zealand in the following three weeks.
(University of Auckland, n.d.)
Border control
4 Jul 2020First escape from a managed isolation and quarantine facility
A 43-year-old woman allegedly scales two fences at the Pullman Hotel, a managed isolation facility in Auckland’s CBD. She is located two hours later. Over the next few months a number of other people attempt to escape from managed isolation and quarantine facilities or abscond from pre-arranged compassionate exemptions. Under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020, those that commit an offence are liable for a term of imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to $4000.
(NZ Herald, 2020e; 2020f; RNZ, 2020u)
Border control
2 Jul 2020David Clark resigns as Minister of Health
Minister of Health David Clark resigns, stating that he has become a distraction when the government and the country need to focus on the pandemic. This is in response to a video that went viral containing footage of Clark discussing Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield’s management of the border. Clark had previously offered his resignation when he broke his own rules during the Alert Level 4 lockdown. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did not accept his resignation at that time, saying she felt the country needed continuity.
(Clark, D., 2020c; Tibshraeny, 2020)
1 Jul 2020COVID-19 All-of-Government Response Group established
The group is established as a business unit of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) to take over from the National Crisis Management Centre. It is mandated to co-ordinate, and where necessary lead, the all-of-government response to the ongoing pandemic.
(DPMC, 2020b)
30 Jun 2020National Crisis Management Centre deactivated
The National Crisis Management Centre is deactivated two months after it is established. It is replaced with the COVID-19 All-of-Government Response Group (see 1 July 2020).
(DPMC, 2020b)
23 Jun 2020*Reports of MIQ guests leaving without a negative test result
From 9 June 2020, a negative test and at least a week in isolation was mandatory before compassionate leave from managed isolation could be granted. On 13 June 2020, two people were allowed to leave their managed isolation at the Novotel Ellerslie in Auckland without being tested on the condition that they were tested in Wellington, which returned positive results. The pair drove from Auckland to Wellington while infected.
(Cheng, 2020a; 2020b)
Border control
17 Jun 2020Auditor-General report on management of PPE released
On 21 April the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) announces it will undertake an independent review of the Ministry of Health’s management of personal protective equipment (PPE) as part of the government’s COVID-19 response. The report finds that, while the overall New Zealand response has been highly effective, ‘there were gaps in the planning about how PPE would be procured and distributed to mitigate the risk of shortages’. The report also notes that in early February, the Ministry of Health did not know what stock DHBs held, some of the national reserve stock had expired and guidelines around ‘who should use what PPE and in what circumstances’ created unnecessary confusion.
(OAG, 2020a; 2020b; 2020c: 5)
16 Jun 2020Compassionate exemptions temporarily suspended
The government decides to temporarily suspend compassionate exemptions after two breaches of isolation protocols. Two women who had arrived from the UK were permitted to leave a managed isolation facility and drive from Auckland to Wellington to see a dying family member. On arrival in Wellington they tested positive for COVID-19; it also emerged they had met with friends en route. Around the same time, a group of six who had been given a compassionate exemption to attend a funeral in Hamilton had absconded instead of returning to managed isolation. The suspension aims to review and strengthen existing protocols. On 24 June it is announced that 51 of the 55 people granted an exemption on compassionate grounds had not been tested for COVID-19.
(Andelane, 2020; Blommerde, 2020; Clark, D., 2020b; NZ Herald, 2020e; 2020f; Turton, 2020)
Border control
12 Jun 2020Quality concerns over masks
The Ministry of Health identifies concerns around the quality of 4.9 million masks purchased internationally as part of securing New Zealand’s supply of personal protective equipment (PPE).
(MOH, 2020l)
8 Jun 2020Move down to Alert Level 1
At 11.59pm, all restrictions are lifted on work, school, sports, businesses and domestic travel; however, strict border controls remain in place. There are no active cases left in New Zealand.
(MOH, 2020k; New Zealand Government, 2020a)
Alert level
29 May 2020Independent Review of COVID-19 Clusters in Aged Residential Care Facilities released
‘Six people have died in Christchurch’s Burwood Hospital from coronavirus since April 6, when 20 elderly dementia patients from Rosewood Rest Home were moved there. … On 15 April, ‘[t]hree Burwood Hospital staff who came into contact with the Rosewood Rest Home residents have now contracted Covid-19. … It comes as a second cluster at The George Manning Life Care facility in Christchurch has been identified.’ On 17 April, six COVID-19-positive residents are transferred from St Margaret’s Hospital and Rest Home to Waitākere Hospital in Auckland, and on 23 April a ninth COVID-19-positive resident dies at Rosewood Rest Home in Christchurch. On 30 April, the Ministry of Health begins an urgent review of the COVID-19 clusters at five aged residential care (ARC) facilities. By 24 May, 39 ARC residents and 78 health care workers are infected, along with 36 other people directly connected to this cluster. The report makes 19 recommendations, including the development of ‘a pandemic management workbook’.
(Guildford & Kenny, 2020; Martin, H., 2020; MOH, 2020i; 2020j: 14–16; Tokalau, 2020; TVNZ, 2020b)
Aged residential care
29 May 2020NZNO survey released
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa, Stickybeak and the McGuinness Institute conduct a survey for all NZNO workers (nurses, midwives, health care assistants, kaimahi hauora and nursing students) working on the frontlines at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in New Zealand. Results highlight an unprepared health-care system and a ‘lack of confidence in PPE supply’, indicating a ‘massive flaw in its supply and distribution as well as a disturbing disconnect between high level rhetoric and what actually happens on the ground’. Results from 28 May, near the end of the first wave of the virus in New Zealand, show that 183 health care workers were infected, making up 12% of the total cases (1504).
(NZNO, 2020; Wade, 2020)
26 May 2020*Vaccine Strategy Taskforce established
The government launches its COVID-19 vaccine strategy by announcing a $37 million investment with the aim of securing a safe and effective vaccine, in sufficient quantity, at the earliest possible time. A task force comprising MBIE, the Ministry of Health (and its agencies Medsafe and Pharmac) and MFAT is set up to oversee the strategy’s implementation. Of the $37 million investment, $15 million is allocated for international research, $10 million for research within New Zealand, $5 million for manufacturing capability upgrades and $7 million for official development assistance that will aid vaccine distribution to developing countries.
(MBIE, 2020a; 2020b)
26 May 2020Epidemic Response Committee disestablished
The House agrees to disestablish the Epidemic Response Committee.
(New Zealand Parliament, 2020a)
19 May 2020COVID-19 tracing app launched
The COVID-19 tracing app is made available to download. The app is voluntary and enables New Zealanders to record their locations so that MOH can trace and contact them in the event that they have been in the same location as someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
(RNZ, 2020t)
Track and tracing
18 May 2020New Zealand joins international coalition seeking investigation into COVID-19 origins
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces that New Zealand, alongside 62 other countries, is backing a push from the Australian Government and the European Union for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak and the WHO-co-ordinated international health response to COVID-19.
(RNZ, 2020s)
COVID-19 origins
16 May 2020Commercial tenancy agreements and mortgage laws adapted
Concern over the fate of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) during COVID-19 restrictions escalates, and a number of business leaders criticise the SME assistance package announced on 15 April due to its lack of help for commercial rental payments. On 16 May the government passes the COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Act 2020, which gives commercial tenants 30 working days to catch up on overdue rent before a landlord can evict them. In turn, the notice lenders must give to landlords regarding overdue mortgage payments is extended from 20 to 40 days. On 30 July 2020 a further subsidy is announced that will help cover the cost of mediation and arbitration between businesses and landlords to help ‘resolve issues about adjusting rent as they face the economic impacts of COVID-19’.
(Mandow, 2020c; MoJ, 2020; Robertson et al., 2020)
Financial support
13 May 2020#Move down to Alert Level 2 at 11.59pm
Level 2 enables all businesses to reopen with strict measures in place for social distancing. Gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited. The government announces a $50-billion recovery package as part of the 2020 Budget. The State of Nationally Emergency expires at 12.21pm.
(Beehive, 2020b; New Zealand Government, 2020a; New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
13 May 2020Waitākere Incident Review Report released
Between 25 and 30 April 2020, three nurses working at Waitākere Hospital test positive for COVID-19 after caring for a group of elderly COVID-19 patients from St Margaret’s Hospital and Rest Home, an aged residential care (ARC) facility in West Auckland. The report finds that although full PPE was available to staff, there were ‘problems with the usability of the PPE and changes in types of PPE provided’ and that this may have led to the nurses testing positive.
(Waitematā DHB, 2020: 4–5)
Aged residential care
13 May 2020COVID-19 Public Health Response Act 2020
The purpose of this Act is to support a public health response to COVID-19 including the creation of COVID-19 orders, to enforce and set penalties and to recover MIQF costs.
7 May 2020CovidCard trialled in Nelson
The CovidCard is a $100-million proposal designed to track and record close contacts. It is a ‘low energy bluetooth device the size of a credit card, that is designed to be worn on a lanyard around the neck when in areas such as public transport, workplaces, bars, restaurants, gyms, hospitals, large gatherings and events’. A trial at a Nelson hospital runs from 7 to 12 May.
(Daalder, 2020a; Dreaver, 2020)
Track and tracing
5 May 2020*State of National Emergency Extended
At 12:21 pm the State of National Emergency is extended. It was previously extended on 31 March, and on 2, 8, 15, 22 and 29 April.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
4 May 2020*No new cases
For the first time since 16 March 2020, no COVID-19 cases are reported in New Zealand. On 5 May, there are also no cases.
(Strongman, n.d.)
Community outbreak
27 Apr 2020*New Zealand moves to Alert Level 3
At 11:59 pm New Zealand moves to Alert Level 3, after almost five weeks at Level 4.
(New Zealand Government, 2021a)
Alert level
22 Apr 2020Medsafe bans the import and trade of COVID-19 point of care test kits
Following concerns about the quality of the variety of testing kits on the international market, New Zealand’s medical regulatory body Medsafe prohibits the ‘importation, manufacture, packing, sale, supply or use of COVID-19 point of care test kits that have not been otherwise authorised by Medsafe’. There are two primary types of COVID-19 test kits. The PCR test takes tissue samples which are then tested in laboratories for the positive identification of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; this test is approved by the MOH.
The second test, known as a point of care test kit, uses a blood sample to detect antibodies and can be used in the home or workplace, but the results are less certain. There is a concern over the general lack of quality control if the second type of test is adopted in New Zealand.
(Chumko, 2020; MOH, 2020h; University of Otago, n.d.[b])
20 Apr 2020Move down to Alert Level 3 announced
After four weeks at Level 4, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces that, from 28 April, New Zealand will drop to Level 3 for at least two more weeks. This enables some businesses to open under strict physical distancing practices. New Zealand remains at Level 3 until 14 May.
(Ardern, 2020f; New Zealand Government, 2020a)
Alert level
20 Apr 2020Verrall report on contact tracing released
The Rapid Audit of Contact Tracing for COVID-19 report is commissioned by the Ministry of Health. The author, Dr Ayesha Verrall, makes eight recommendations, including the need to explore ways ‘to rapidly scale case identification and contact tracing and regain control’. On 6 May, the Contact Tracing Assurance Committee (CTAC) is established to review the extent to which the recommendations have been implemented; they find that they generally have been but ‘further optimisation is now the goal’.
(Roche et al., 2020: 1, 2; Verrall, 2020)
Track and tracing
16 Apr 2020COVID-19 Māori Response Action Plan released
The plan develops a framework to protect the health and wellbeing of Māori.
(MOH, 2020g)
15 Apr 2020SME assistance package announced
The government announces a package of new measures to provide relief for small and medium-sized businesses. ‘Finance Minister Grant Robertson says while the Government has already acted swiftly in response to the crisis, with about $20 billion in support already announced, it recognises that more is needed. The new measures include: $3.1 billion tax loss carry-back scheme (estimated cost over the next two years), $60 million estimated annual savings to business each year from changes to the tax loss continuity rules, $25 million in the next 12 months for further business consultancy support, greater flexibility for affected businesses affected to meet their tax obligations, [and] measures to support commercial tenants and landlords.’
(Robertson, G., et al., 2020)
Financial support
9 Apr 2020Mandatory 14 days in MIQ announced
Everyone who arrives in New Zealand from 10 April must spend 14 days in a managed isolation facility, or in a quarantine facility if they test positive, have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. A quarantine facility is a high-risk facility; people are not allowed to leave for exercise or recreation. In contrast, a managed isolation facility is a low-risk facility with less stringent rules. These rules have changed over time; a 9 April notice indicates that people in managed isolation facilities are able to leave the facility for exercise or recreation within a 2-kilometre radius wearing PPE. However, on 12 June, after footage from Auckland’s Crowne Plaza (a managed isolation facility) shows returning New Zealanders ‘mingling with others from different flights … and coming in close contact with the public’ on guided walks outside the facility, it is announced that the walks will be cancelled and that managed isolation groups will ‘now only be able to exercise on hotel premises or be bussed to a safe area’. As at 4 November 2020, the MIQF website indicates that people are able to leave the facility to ‘take part in planned outdoor exercise’. Before a person can leave a facility at the end of the 14-day period, a final health check is carried out to confirm they test negative for COVID-19.
(Hall, 2020; Hercus et al., 2020; MBIE, 2020a; MOH, 2020f; TVNZ, 2020a)
Border control
11 Apr 2020*Exemption from MIQ permitted for medical reasons
Exemptions are granted to allow leave from mandatory managed isolation on medical grounds. Arrivals granted this exemption are permitted to self-isolate at home or in a health-care facility. Between 11 April and 7 October 2020, 152 people were granted this exemption.
(Hutt, 2020)
Border control
7 Apr 2020Limited testing kits available
The Ministry of Health advises there are 44,000 testing kits in the country, enough to last 15 days at the current testing rate. There are also concerns over access to key ingredients used to obtain test results. ‘The kits are made up of reagent chemicals – primers, probes and buffers – in addition to either a nasal or back-of-the-throat swab. The reagents produce the chemical reaction which tells the lab if a result is positive or negative.’ Clinical microbiologist James Ussher comments that due to global demand, ‘companies are doing the best to try and supply and maintain testing capability in laboratories around the world ... [but they are] often not able to send out as much as we might like. Often those shipments don’t get the whole order met so we might be running with less stock on hand than we would feel comfortable with.’
(Cook, C., 2020)
7 Apr 2020Aotearoa/New Zealand’s COVID-19 elimination strategy published
The document sets out ‘the overarching components of an elimination strategy, whether it is consistent with core principles for public health action in a pandemic, and indicators of success’. ‘Elimination of COVID-19 (or any disease) means reducing new cases in a defined geographical area, in this case Aotearoa/New Zealand, to zero (or a very low defined target rate). Elimination is distinct from eradication.’ The strategy is prepared by ‘the COVID-19 Public Health Response Strategy Team (a group of epidemiologists and public health medicine specialists seconded temporarily to the Ministry of Health). The team consists of: Dr Amanda Kvalsvig, Dr Caroline Shaw, Dr Lucy Telfar-Barnard, Dr Anja Mizdrak, Dr Polly Atatoa-Carr, Dr Mel McLeod [and] Dr Ruth Cunningham.’
(MOH, 2020e)
5 Apr 2020Personal protective equipment arrives
The first shipment of PPE direct from Shanghai, China, arrives on an Air New Zealand flight. This is the first of six planes landing in the coming days carrying 150,000 N95 masks, 2.5 million disposable masks, 50,000 sterilised gowns, 140,000 medical alcohol wipes, 30,000 plastic face shields and 100,000 litres of hand sanitiser. Concern has been mounting over a general lack of PPE, medical equipment and medicine in New Zealand; in particular P2 and N95 face masks, medical glasses, goggles and face shields, medical ventilators and the medication necessary to manage an increase in the number of patients requiring medical ventilation units. This leads to a response by business leaders, including Warehouse founder Sir Stephen Tindall, Trade Me creator Sam Morgan, former Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe and toy-maker Zuru founders Nick, Mat and Anna Mowbray, among others. Tindall underwrites the purchase of 50 New Zealand-made ventilators at $60,000 each and together with Sam Morgan explores ways to manufacture medical ventilators in New Zealand.
(Gower, 2020; Mandow, 2020a; 2020b; Stock, 2020)
2 Apr 2020WhatsApp COVID-19 channel launched
As part of the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, the government invests $672,000 in a government WhatsApp channel, which will enable New Zealanders to access timely COVID-19-related information during lockdown. More than 50,000 people sign up but the channel is disestablished on 7 June.
(Forrester, 2020)
1 Apr 2020National Crisis Management Centre activated
The National Crisis Management Centre is activated to co-ordinate the national response to COVID-19. The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) provides personnel in a range of planning functions across government (approximately 80 personnel) and from 10 April provides specific staff (approximately 300) to help operate managed isolation and quarantine facilities. This is called Operation Protect, and fits under the broader all-of-government response to COVID-19.
(New Zealand Government, 2020b; NZDF, 2020b)
31 Mar 2020Manufacturers unite to build supply capability
Over this time a number of initiatives are established to connect local businesses that have resources to either manufacture or supply additional PPE and medical resources to the health-care professionals who need it. The McGuinness Institute establishes SupplyNZ on 31 March and by 1 May there are over 100 registrants. ManufacturingNZ sets up a similar tool at the same time and by 12 October 2020 there are 187 registrants. Both provide an online tool to connect manufacturers and/or purchasers quickly. Lanaco, New Zealand’s first local manufacturer of disposable face masks and filters that meet AS/NZS 1716 P2 standards, ramps up production.
(Lanaco, 2020; ManufacturingNZ, 2020; McGuinness Institute, 2020d; 2020e)
29 Mar 2020First COVID-19 death confirmed
New Zealand’s first death linked to COVID-19 is a woman in her 70s from the West Coast. On 5 April, the number of confirmed cases passes 1000.
(MOH, 2020d; Tyson, 2020)
Community outbreak
27 Mar 2020CDC report outbreaks on cruise ships worldwide
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report on an increasing number of cruise ship passengers being infected with SARS-CoV-2. A small number of New Zealanders are involved and a few become infected. The most notable case is the Ruby Princess, which visits New Zealand between 11 and 15 March. ‘The cruise ship cluster [in Australia] was linked to more than 20 coronavirus deaths and over 600 infections – 24 of which were located in Hawke’s Bay’. Despite a number of cases confirmed on board, thousands are allowed to leave the ship on 19 March in Sydney. A Special Commission of Inquiry is undertaken by the Australian government.
(Brown, V., 2020; CDC, 2020; Special Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess, 2020; Stuff, 2020c)
Border control
26 Mar 2020Rent increase freeze applied
A nationwide freeze on rent increases and limits on tenancy terminations are put in place. Landlords can give rent increase notices but they can only take effect on or after 26 September 2020. The Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020 is passed on 11 August 2020, putting in place further broad changes that will affect both tenants and landlords.
(MHUD, 2020)
Financial support
25 Mar 2020#Move up to Alert Level 4, State of National Emergency declared and Epidemic Response Committee established
A State of National Emergency is declared for the second time since the passing of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002; the first was in response to the Canterbury earthquake (23 February to 30 April 2011). The State of National Emergency covers all of New Zealand including the Chatham Islands, Stewart Island and other offshore islands. The country moves to Alert Level 4, implementing some of the strictest anti-COVID-19 measures in the world: all schools and non-essential business premises must close, all events and gatherings are cancelled, and physical socialising or interactions with anyone outside one’s own household ‘bubble’ are prohibited, unless one is an ‘essential worker’. This results in approximately 529,000 essential workers continuing to go out to work. The Epidemic Response Committee is established to consider and report to the House of Representatives on matters relating to the government’s management of the COVID-19 epidemic. The State of National Emergency expires 7 days after the time and date on which the state of emergency comes into force unless it is extended (as per Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002, s 70). The State of National Emergency is subsequently extended seven times and lasts 56 days.
(Ardern, 2020e; Civil Defence, n.d.; MBIE, pers. comm., 3 June 2020; New Zealand Government, 2020a; New Zealand Government, 2021a; New Zealand Parliament, 2020a)
Alert level
24 Mar 2020Six-month mortgage holiday for small and medium-sized businesses announced
Government, retail banks and the Reserve Bank announce a financial support package. The package includes a six-month principal and interest payment holiday for mortgage holders and small and medium-sized business (SME) customers. It also includes a $6.25 billion Business Finance Guarantee Scheme which will underwrite 80% of individual bank loans to eligible SMEs, so that only 20% of losses in the event of a loan default will be borne by the banks. The mortgage holiday is then extended to 31 March 2021, allowing banks to continue offering temporary mortgage deferrals to customers without their loans treated as being in default.
(Hargreaves, 2020; RBNZ, 2020b; Rosanes, 2020)
Financial support
23 Mar 2020Police Commissioner Mike Bush leads the government’s coronavirus taskforce
Outgoing Police Commissioner Mike Bush becomes the leader of the government’s operational taskforce for COVID-19. The taskforce has been set up to enforce compliance under the government’s alert level system.
(Cooke, 2020)
23 Mar 2020Move up to Alert Level 3 announced
The number of confirmed cases in New Zealand passes 100. The government announces the nation is to move to Alert Level 3 and 48 hours later to Alert Level 4 – a full lockdown. This gives New Zealanders a window of two days to relocate to their lockdown premises. Level 3 requires all non-essential businesses to close, as well as schools. This results in approximately 1,172,000 New Zealanders continuing to go to work.
(Ardern, 2020d; MBIE, pers. comm., 3 June 2020; MOH, 2020c; New Zealand Government, 2020a)
Alert level
21 Mar 2020Alert level system released and move to Alert Level 2 announced
The government introduces a four-tiered alert level system to help manage the spread of COVID-19, and announces that New Zealand will enter Alert Level 2. The staged alert system is intended to help New Zealanders understand the level of risk faced at any given time, and specifies what health and social measures must be taken to reduce transmission of COVID-19.
(Ardern, 2020c; New Zealand Government, 2020a)
Alert level
19 Mar 2020#Borders close for first time
The National Party calls for a complete border closure. Within hours, the Government emerges from an urgent Cabinet meeting and announces that at 11:59 pm that night the country’s borders will close to everyone except New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, for the first time in New Zealand’s history. There is a ban on indoor gatherings of more than 100 people. The same day, China reports zero cases for the first time since the disease’s outbreak. Globally there have been over 190,000 confirmed cases and nearly 8000 deaths.
(Ardern, 2020b; Kenny, 2020; McCullough, 2020a; Strongman, 2020)
Border control
19 Mar 2020COVID-19 Ministerial Group established
The COVID-19 Ministerial Group replaces the CVD, and reinforces decision-making flexibility to respond to the urgency of the matters facing ministers, supported by their public service advisors. Membership as at 9 October 2020 includes: Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, Rt Hon Winston Peters, Hon Kelvin Davis, Hon Grant Robertson, Hon Chris Hipkins (who replaces Hon David Clark, see resignation below), Hon Carmel Sepuloni and Hon James Shaw. Aside from Cabinet, the COVID-19 Ministerial Group remains the primary decision-maker in the country in regard to New Zealand’s COVID-19 response until the end of New Zealand’s first lockdown (see 28 April 2020). After this date decisions are primarily taken by Cabinet and the Ministerial Group only meets when urgent decisions are needed during rapidly changing situations.
(DPMC, 2020a; pers. comm., 10 November 2020)
16 Mar 2020Economic support package announced
The Reserve Bank announces an emergency official cash rate cut following concern over impacts on the economy. On 17 March, the government announces a $12.1-billion package (4% of GDP) to support health, businesses, jobs and consumer spending. The package includes $5.1 billion in wage subsidies ‘for affected businesses in all sectors and regions’. The Wage Subsidy applies to all businesses who ‘have suffered or are projected to suffer at least a 30% decline in revenue compared to the same period last year, for any month between January 2020 and June 2020’. The Wage Subsidy Extension extended the availability to 1 September 2020. A COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme is also made available to employers to help pay employees who need to self-isolate but cannot work from home.
(Beehive, 2020a; MSD, 2020, n.d.[b]; RBNZ, 2020a; Robertson, G., 2020)
Financial support
16 Mar 2020Gatherings of 500 or more people cancelled or postponed
Events cancelled include the memorial for those killed in the 15 March 2019 attacks on two mosques in Christchurch and Wellington’s Homegrown festival on 21 March 2020. The Auckland Arts Festival is cancelled as a direct result of the government’s new border controls, which require people entering New Zealand to self-isolate for 14 days.
(RNZ, 2020q; 2020r)
14 Mar 2020Border controls implemented
The government announces anyone entering New Zealand must self-isolate for 14 days. Cruise ships are banned and strict measures are put in place for people travelling from New Zealand to the Pacific. On 15 March, France and Spain go into nationwide lockdowns.
(Ardern, 2020a; Strongman, 2020)
Border control
13 Mar 2020Pasifika Festival cancelled
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff announces the Pasifika Festival that was to be held on 14–15 March 2020 is cancelled amid fears of the spread of COVID-19. Goff advises the decision to cancel has been made after discussions with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Samoan High Commissioner Leasi Papali’i Tommy Scanlan. The CVD Committee had met overnight and its advice was to cancel, based on concerns from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
(MPP, 2020; RNZ, 2020p)
2 Mar 2020COVID-19 Response (CVD) Cabinet Committee established
Cabinet note that the Prime Minister intends to establish the committee, and committee members meet for the first time later that week. Its role is to co-ordinate and direct the government response to the COVID-19 outbreak. (DPMC, pers. comm., 10 November 2020)
28 Feb 2020First case identified and reported (first wave begins)
A person arriving in Auckland from Iran tests positive for the virus. The government places restrictions on people travelling from Iran to New Zealand. Importantly this is two months after COVID-19 is first identified in China, and almost a month after most countries in Europe and the United States confirm cases of COVID-19. New Zealand is given an important window of opportunity to learn from the experiences of other countries, and is able to consider a full lockdown. The 2017 New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan: A framework for action describes a strategy of exclusion. This strategy ‘involves limiting arrivals from affected areas, using intervention measures for those from affected areas intending to travel to New Zealand, and quarantining arrivals who have been, or may have been, exposed to pandemic influenza’.
(Clark, D., 2020a; McGuinness Institute, 2020c; MOH, 2017b: 118; 2020b)
Border control
23 Feb 2020*First case of COVID-19 arrives in New Zealand unidentified
An article from the New Zealand Medical Journal released on 26 March 2021 states that COVID-19 had arrived in New Zealand via a traveller who arrived from Lombardy, Italy on 23 February and was told to self-isolate after presenting flu-like symptoms on 25 February. This is five days prior to the original first reported case. The 23 February case is discovered in September 2020 through the identification of a historical infection from late February 2020 who was a close household contact of the traveller from Lombardy. Five other household contacts are identified as suspected cases.
(Becker, Vipond & Mansell, 2021)
Border control
29 Jan 2020WHO first provides advice on mask wearing
The World Health Organization first releases advice on the use of masks ‘in the community, during home care and in health care settings’. The WHO advises that, in public, wearing a mask is only necessary if an individual has respiratory symptoms. They advise health care workers and individuals with respiratory symptoms in health care facilities to wear masks. At this point, they state that ‘no evidence is available on its usefulness to protect non-sick persons’. An update on 6 April continues to state that there is no evidence that they are useful to people who aren’t sick. On 5 June 2020, the WHO extends its guidance, suggesting in areas of widespread transmission the general public should wear masks in situations where they are unable to maintain physical distancing. Over this period, the New Zealand government aligns its advice with that of WHO; on 28 February, following the announcement of the first New Zealand case of the coronavirus, the government announces that mask wearing by healthy people is not necessary. When the second wave begins on 11 August, the government realigns its advice and encourages mask wearing, before making mask-wearing mandatory on public transport on 31 August.
(Daly, 2020; Murray, A., 2020; NZ Herald, 2020d; WHO, 2020d; 2020e; 2020f)
23 Jan 2020Initial response by major political parties
National Party health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse announces on 23 January he considers that COVID-19 should be made a notifiable disease, that travellers from affected areas should be screened and that there should be ‘heightened health surveillance at international airports’. Three days later Minister of Health David Clark announces public health staff will meet flights from China to ‘actively look for signs of the novel coronavirus’. On 11 February 2020, the WHO officially names the coronavirus disease COVID-19 and the virus that causes the disease SARS-CoV-2.
(Kenny, 2020; WHO, 2020b)
Border control