Travel and Omicron: Can we still travel for the long weekends in red?

For many Kiwis, travel plans have already been made for the upcoming Auckland Anniversary weekend and Waitangi weekend.

Then, on Sunday, January 23 at 11.59 pm, all of New Zealand moved to the red traffic light setting on the Covid-19 Protection Framework in response to outbreaks of the highly transmissable Omicron variant.

Fortunately, while red is the most restrictive traffic light setting, domestic travel can continue.

Here’s how your travel plans may change.

Can I travel between regions or cities?
Yes, there are no boundaries between cities and people can move freely between regions.

However, New Zealand’s leading Covid-19 data modeller Michael Plank said Kiwis should consider the vaccination rates of a region they plan to visit.

“It is certainly still the case that regions and communities with low vaccination rates are the most vulnerable to Omicron, just as they were with Delta,” he said.

While Plank said the risk of getting ‘severely sick’ with Omicron was low for those who were up to date with vaccinations, it’s important to consider those who are not vaccinated such as children under 5 years of age.

“For most people, if you’re up to date with your vaccinations, the risk of becoming severely ill with Omicron is very low. But unvaccinated people are at much higher risk.”

Do I need a Vaccine Pass or negative test to travel?
No, you do not need a My Vaccine Pass or a negative Covid-19 test, unless you travel with a transport provider that requests it.

Some transport providers, like airlines, KiwiRail and Cook Strait ferry operators, may require you to show a My Vaccine Pass or negative Covid test result before boarding if you are aged 12 years and 3 months or above. The test must be taken no more than 72 hours before your journey.

Where do I have to wear a face-covering?
You must wear a face-covering when travelling on public transport, at arrival and departure points (e.g. airports), on flights and Cook Strait ferries.

According to the most recent Government announcement, from February 3, these must be an actual mask; your scarves, bandanas or t-shirts won’t do.

I’ve booked accommodation, can I still go?
In red, accommodation remains open without capacity limits and although they do not have to, some accommodation providers can choose to require vaccine passes.

Accommodation includes cabins, campgrounds, backpackers, hotels, motels and Airbnb properties.

This does not include private residences, which must follow different regulations concerning capacity limits.

Are DOC huts and campsites open?
Yes, but if you are over 12 years and 3 months old you must have a My Vaccine Pass to stay at a DOC hut or campsite. Hut wardens will carry out spot checks to ensure everyone has a My Vaccine Pass.

Those without a My Vaccine Pass can still use DOC tracks and toilets but cannot stay overnight.

Should I keep scanning Covid-19 QR codes?
Yes, especially on transport services or areas where you are in proximity to other people.

Omicron is known to be far more transmissible, which makes contact tracing via QR codes key in tracking close contacts.

I think I need to get a Covid-19 test but have long weekend plans, what should I do?
Nothing puts a dampener on long weekend plans like the risk of needing to isolate at home.

However, if you have symptoms or feel unwell, you should get tested, and stay home and isolate while waiting for your results to arrive.

If your test comes back positive, you must stay home and self-isolate, following Ministry of Health advice and not leave until advised it is safe to do so.

We all love a long weekend, but there will be many more in the future.

If I test positive for Covid-19 while on holiday, can I return home?

It depends, which is why the Government recommends travellers have a plan for how to self-isolate if they catch Covid.

Firstly, you should get tested as soon as you experience symptoms, not when you get home, then isolate at your accommodation until test results arrive.

If you or a person you are travelling with can drive, without having to stay somewhere overnight, you can return home. Limit your stops and only use petrol services with contactless payment.

Those who need to take a ferry, flight or public transport home will not be able to travel if they test positive for Covid-19. If your travels involve shared transport, make sure your budget can cover an extended trip.

If you get Covid-19 symptoms while away, you should get tested straight away, not wait until you get home. Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice and isolate at your accommodation until you get your test result.

I have tickets for an event, will it still be on?
Dozens of events due to run over the next two weekends have been cancelled.

These range from the large and famous, like Wellington’s Lunar New Year Festival (February 1 to 12) to more niche, like Auckland’s Auckland International Buskers Festival (January 24 – 27).

If you haven’t been contacted about your event, it’s worth getting in touch to find out the status and refund policies.

How can I stay safe during my long weekend travel?
New Zealand has done the mahi to become a highly vaccinated country but Covid-19, and omicron especially, can still spread through the community.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to protect one another.

• Regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands and use hand sanitiser.
• Sneeze and cough into your elbow.
• Keep 1m distance from others.
• Clean or disinfect shared surfaces often.
• If you have cold, flu or Covid-19 symptoms, stay home and get a test.

For more details about local travel and recreation visit:

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