COVID-19: Protecting Aotearoa New Zealand

Protecting Aotearoa and New Zealanders from COVID-19 continues to be a priority for the Ministry of Health. As the virus has evolved from the more severe Delta variant to the Omicron variant, New Zealand’s protection framework also evolved.

Last updated: 1 June 2022

Elimination served Aotearoa New Zealand well, resulting in the lowest number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths in the OECD between 21 March 2020 and 2 December 2021. Supported by a high uptake of vaccination across all populations, we moved from the Alert Level Framework to the COVID-19 Protection Framework (or the ‘Traffic Light’ system), and now with the lifting of the Epidemic Notice, we have moved to a new protection approach. Most COVID-19 rules were removed on 13 September 2022. 

Protecting Aotearoa New Zealand

Protecting lives and livelihoods remains the goal of the Government’s COVID-19 response. That includes:

  • Protecting those who are most at risk of severe disease and outcomes.
  • Protecting the health system that is required to treat these people and continue to function to maintain other health services.

A sustainable health system

We are working to ensure the health system, its workforce and our community partners are prepared for a sustainable response to COVID-19. This includes focusing on health care system capacity and capability. 

Honouring Te Tiriti O Waitangi obligations and upholding equity principles continue to underpin our COVID-19 response. This is to ensure that Māori, Pasifika, and other higher-risk communities and individuals are protected, and that the burden of combatting the virus and its impacts does not fall heavily on certain communities or groupings. 


A high vaccination rate remains a key tool to protect people and minimise the spread of COVID-19. Getting vaccinated, and keeping up-to-date with your boosters, means you are less likely to get extremely sick or infect other people. 

COVID-19 vaccination rates are available on the Ministry of Health website and are regularly updated. 

Prior strategies for managing COVID-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand

COVID-19 Protection Framework

High vaccination rates meant the majority of the population were protected against the risk of severe illness or death from infection, as Omicron replaced the more severe Delta variant. Because of the extra protection afforded by vaccination, New Zealand moved from a focus on elimination (the Elimination Strategy), to a minimise and protect strategy.

The COVID-19 Protection Framework introduced the traffic light system, which replaced the Alert Level system on 2 December 2021. 

The traffic light system enabled management of cases in the community at any of the different red, orange or green settings to help protect people and address any undue pressure on our health system. It was ended on 26 September 2022.

Elimination Strategy

In March 2020, New Zealand committed to an Elimination Strategy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which provided a sustained approach to keep it out, find it and stamp it out. This was an important approach toward a continually evolving virus and to keeping New Zealanders safe from COVID-19. 

Under the elimination strategy, all activities were focused on getting to and maintaining ‘zero COVID-19’ and the Alert Level Framework was implemented to support this. This was vital when treatments and, importantly, effective vaccinations were unavailable. When we did get vaccines, it was important for us to rollout vaccination to those most at risk first - our border workers, older populations and those that had other health risks. 

This strategy allowed New Zealanders to maintain freedoms and a quality of life in the face of COVID-19 that few other countries have enjoyed. The elimination strategy was replaced with the COVID-19 Protection Framework. 

For reference, the previous COVID-19 Elimination Strategy diagram is available to download. 

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