Employment & Health and Safety, Insights, Law Changes

COVID Red Traffic Light – What does this mean?


New Zealand moved to the red traffic light setting at 11:59pm on Sunday 23 January 2021 to protect us from the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the community. If you have a My Vaccine Pass, life will generally continue as usual with a few limitations. Without a My Vaccine Pass, there are more severe restrictions. Basic needs services providing food and healthcare will always be available and domestic travel is unrestricted at this time. Scanning QR codes and record keeping remain crucial for contact tracing purposes. Booster vaccines are strongly encouraged so we can protect our vulnerable communities.   

Note on Face Masks  

From 11:59pm on Thursday 3 February, face coverings must be an actual mask with loops around the ears or head. This means scarves, bandannas, or t-shirts should not be used. 


There are different restrictions depending on the type of activities that your business carries out. Retail businesses must continue to display QR codes, however, they may choose whether to require My Vaccine Passes or not. Gyms and recreational facilities such as indoor sport facilities are allowed up to 100 people who hold My Vaccine Passes and can be socially distanced.  

Basic needs businesses are not allowed to require My Vaccine Passes. These services are supermarkets, dairies, pharmacies and petrol stations. 

Workplaces must operate with restrictions, being fully vaccinated is a requirement in many sectors. The following workplaces are covered by the vaccine mandate: food and drinks services, events, close proximity businesses, indoor exercise facilities such as gyms, and on-site tertiary education facilities. Individual workplaces will enforce physical distancing rules within their workspace, some businesses will allow working from home if necessary. However, business is expected to carry on as normal with physical distancing precautions.   

For further guidance, refer to the COVID-19 website. 

Events and Gatherings 

Gatherings with My Vaccine Passes can be up to 100 people in private dwellings and up to 100 people (excluding staff) with 1-metre distancing in all other venues. Without My Vaccine Passes, this limit is reduced to 25 people in private dwellings and 25 people with 1-metre distancing in all other venues. These apply to gatherings such as weddings, faith-based groups, funerals and tangihanga, sports, parties, and friendly catchups. For more guidance on gatherings, see the COVID-19 website. 


Licensed early childhood education providers and registered primary and secondary schools will be open for in person learning. All students in Year 4 or above and staff in supporting these students must wear face masks indoors and when in close contact with others. This includes wearing face masks on public and school transport. Vaccination is not required for students, however, teachers, support staff, volunteers and contractors must be fully vaccinated. For further guidance, refer to the COVID-19 website. 

With My Vaccine Pass, students at tertiary education facilities can attend classes, labs and tutorials in person with 1-metre distancing. Students without My Vaccine Pass must learn by distance and should talk to their provider about their options. Students and staff must wear face masks when indoors. Student accommodation can open and can choose to require My Vaccine Pass for residents and staff. Check with your provider about their requirements. For further guidance, refer to the COVID-19 website. 

If you are sick, waiting for your COVID-19 test results or have been asked to self-isolate, you should stay home and not go to your educational facility. Talk to your education provider about distance learning options. 


You can still buy or sell property and move houses in the red traffic light settings. This includes holding open homes with appropriate physical distances, mask wearing and record keeping including displaying a QR code. Property owners or real estate agents can choose to require My Vaccine Passes for open homes and inspections. The usual gathering limits for properties apply with or without My Vaccine Pass. 

Landlords and tenants are encouraged to discuss any concerns with each other and seek guidance from tenancy services if needed. Tenants are under no obligation to tell their landlord if they are self-isolating, however, they should advise their landlord or any tradespeople that are entering the property. Tenants cannot refuse their unvaccinated landlord, property manager or tradespeople from accessing the property with proper purpose and notice. Talk to your landlord about alternative arrangements if you have concerns. For more information, refer to the Tenancy Services website. 


Read more about what life at red looks like on the COVID-19 website. For more information about financial support available, use the COVID-19 financial support tool.