Traffic light system provides guidance for local venue

Labour Weekend usually marks the start of a busy period for Whāingaroa but with level 3 restrictions remaining in place it was a subdued atmosphere compared to recent years. 

Government’s announcement last week on the Protection Framework traffic light system provides some hope that summer trading will be possible provided vaccination targets are reached and local cases are under control.

The YOT Club usually holds the first Sunday Session of the season on Labour Weekend – an extremely well attended affair – but it wasn’t to be this year as restrictions remained in the Waikato for the whole weekend and the venue, along with many other businesses in town, remained closed.

Owner Andy Meek says he was closed 22 weekends in the last financial year and is up to 10 weeks and counting in the current one. With restrictions around overseas travel, regional travel, and venue capacity, the YOT Club has experienced a lot of disruptions over the past 18 months.

“It’s fair to say we’ve taken a beating especially with my Auckland club being shut longer last year,” said Andy.

Since moving away from a zero-covid approach, Government has unveiled the new Protection Framework for Covid-19 restrictions which will come into effect once every District Health Board in the country reaches the target of 90% fully vaccinated. Auckland will move to this framework once the three DHBs – Auckland City, Waitematā and Counties Manukau – reach 90%.

The framework has three settings, red, orange, and green, and is a shift away from lockdowns as a measure to stop the spread of Covid-19. This ‘flexible’ approach that relies on vaccination targets will allow businesses to open under most settings, given public health measures and vaccination certificate requirements are put in place by those businesses.

Under the protection framework, vaccination certificates will be optional for many locations but there will be some higher-risk settings where there will be a requirement to open to the public – like night clubs and festivals.

If a business, organisation or service does not wish to request proof of vaccine, they will have to operate with strict limits on capacity and space requirements and may need to close in Orange and/or Red levels.

Andy confirmed that the YOT Club will be operating the vaccination certificate system which kicks in when all DHBs hit 90% vaccination rate.

“For live music venues the traffic light system comes as a nice surprise which wasn’t expected when seeing how places like the YOT Club have fared as other countries opened up overseas before us.”

“Being able to operate under Green and Orange with little restrictions is fantastic moving forward. That’s assuming the Waikato DHB hits the 90% vaccination rate,” said Andy.

While it’s unclear how long it will take to reach these vaccination targets, it is expected that the country will go straight to the Orange setting once the 90% rate is achieved. At Orange, the YOT Club will be able to operate with small limits in place because they will be using vaccination certificates.

At Orange there’s increasing community transmission with increasing pressure on the health system. “Whole of health system is focusing resources but can manage – primary care, public health, and hospitals. Increasing risk to at risk populations.”

Record keeping/scanning will of course be required, face coverings will be mandatory on flights, public transport, taxis, retail, public venues, and encouraged elsewhere. Public facilities will be open with capacity limits based on 1m distancing, as will retail.

On looking to the future Andy says, the earliest possible date for the YOT Club reopening would be six weeks from now. 

“That’s giving a week to get first jab numbers up then three weeks wait for the second. Then two weeks for max. immunity so to speak,” he said optimistically.