Nightclubs, restaurants and cinemas in Auckland, New Zealandâ€™s largest city, reopened to vaccinated customers on Friday, more than 100 days after the city went into lockdown because of an outbreak of the Delta variant.
The reopening comes as the country moved to its new post-vaccination â€œtraffic lightâ€ classification system, in which unvaccinated people are mostly shut out of public life. Different regions of the country have been allocated a color â€” red, orange or green, depending on the perceived risk of transmission â€” denoting the level of restrictions in place. No region in New Zealand is presently in the â€œgreenâ€ zone.
Those who have not been fully inoculated against the coronavirus are now barred from eating in restaurants, visiting bars or nightclubs, going to gyms or mixing with vaccinated people in almost any setting, including houses of worship. Masks are mandatory in many public settings, including on airplanes and on many forms of public transport, in addition to pharmacies and at other gatherings.
Auckland plunged into a snap lockdown on Aug. 17 after a single case of the Delta variant was identified in the city. That case quickly snowballed into the countryâ€™s largest outbreak since the pandemic began, with dozens of new infections being reported each day after months of no cases.
On Friday, people flocked to the cityâ€™s bars, restaurants and cafes, making the most of the good weather. To mark the reopening, a number of Auckland bars welcomed patrons at the first permitted moment, 11:59 p.m. on Thursday. Businesses must check vaccine passes before granting patrons admission.
Under the rules, Auckland will remain largely cut off from the rest of the country until Dec. 15. Only people who have been vaccinated will be permitted to travel to other regions of the country, many of which have lower vaccination rates.
New Zealand aims to have 90 percent of its eligible population ages 12 and older vaccinated in each district. As of Friday, only two regions had met that target, and another 10 had vaccinated at least 85 percent of eligible people.
In October, the country announced sweeping vaccine mandates for more than 40 percent of all workers, including teachers and those working in service industries. More than 1,300 health workers were forced to leave their jobs last month after they refused to be vaccinated.