Auckland to be downgraded to orange by year-end

The government's timeline has received some backlash from the opposition party

Auckland to be downgraded to orange by year-end

Auckland and the rest of areas, save for Northland will be downgraded to an orange setting starting 11:59 PM on December 30, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The said areas to be downgraded include Taupō, Rotorua lakes districts, Whakatāne, Kawerau, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitīkei, Whanganui and Ruapehu districts, Stuff reported.

Northland, on the hand, will remain on the highest red light setting, with Ardern attributing it to the area's first dose rates which she said were well behind the rest of the country. People living under the orange light settings get to enjoy more freedom, especially for those who are vaccinated against COVID-19. Still, no areas are yet in the lowest green light level amid the country's "transition" phase to the new traffic light system.

Ardern, however, noted that more places would be placed under green light after January 17, when the Cabinet checks on the COVID-19 and vaccination situations across the country.

Read more: Auckland employers hit hard by housing crisis

Meanwhile, Opposition leader Christopher Luxon of the National Party is urging Ardern to immediately put Auckland under orange light, instead of waiting until December 30. According to Luxon, the government is "not following its own criteria" and in doing so extends the challenges faced by small businesses under the current curbs.

"The traffic light setting makes a huge difference to the economic viability of small businesses, including hospitality," Luxon said in a statement on Facebook. "Many of those businesses will be beyond frustrated at being given a glimpse of further freedoms but having to wait another 17 days, despite being at their peak summer trading period. The traffic light framework will only enjoy public confidence and support if the decisions made under it make sense."                                             

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