Looking for information about your health? This has now moved to Te Whatu Ora Health Information and Services.

× Remove the announcement

COVID-19: Protecting Aotearoa New Zealand

Protecting Aotearoa and New Zealanders from COVID-19 continues to be a priority for the Ministry of Health.

Globally, Aotearoa New Zealand’s COVID-19 response has been regarded as a success.  We have a high vaccination rate, with 90% of the population over 12 years having completed a primary course of COVID-19 vaccination. We also have one of the OECD’s lowest COVID-19 death rates, at 558 deaths per million people, compared with Australia (791), Singapore (305), South Korea (669), and the United Kingdom (3,345). 

Over the course of the pandemic, our strategy has shifted to make sure our response was the right size to meet the challenges of the changing virus, from elimination to minimisation to protection. We now have high levels of immunity, better access to antivirals, improved surveillance and diagnostics, and open borders.

COVID-19 Strategic Framework

Globally, Aotearoa New Zealand’s COVID-19 response has been regarded as a success. We have a high vaccination rate, with 90% of the population over 12 years having completed a primary course of COVID-19 vaccination. We also have one of the OECD’s lowest COVID-19 death rates, at 558 deaths per million people, compared with Australia (791), Singapore (305), South Korea (669), and the United Kingdom (3,345). 

Over the course of the pandemic, our strategy has shifted to make sure our response was the right size to meet the challenges of the changing virus, from elimination to minimisation to protection. We now have high levels of immunity, better access to antivirals, improved surveillance and diagnostics, and open borders.

The Strategic Framework was published in August 2023 and outlines how we can strengthen our preparedness for future pandemics and apply the lessons learned over the past three years into a new sustainable approach to managing COVID-19.

It replaces the Aotearoa New Zealand Strategic Framework for COVID-19 Variants of Concern and the COVID-19 All of Government National Management Plan.

Overall, COVID-19 appears to be stabilising and the current expectation is that cases will continue to oscillate with less hospitalisations than last year. The greatest impact of COVID-19 is on our at-risk communities, and we know that tailored programmes can substantially mitigate these risks.

As well as setting a new ‘business as usual’ course for the management of COVID-19, the Strategic Framework highlights the need to continue to protect vulnerable communities and retain the ability to rapidly scale Aotearoa New Zealand’s response, should a new variant of concern emerge, or a previous variant of concern re-emerge.

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. 

Vaccination

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 from Te Whatu Ora 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. 

Back to top