Prime minister Jacinda Ardern says the covid protection framework, or 'traffic light' system will come to an end at midnight.

Ardern said the cabinet had opted to scrap the red, orange and green system, which came into play last December, from 11.59pm on Monday, which would let the country "turn the page" on covid management, and live without the measures which have been in use to varying degrees since March 2020.

The most obvious implication of the move will be the removal of mandates for the wearing of face masks, across all venues outside of hospitals, doctor's offices and aged care facilities. 

Ardern said some places, such as workplaces, special events, or marae may request the wearing of masks, which was "at their discretion" and no longer a government requirement. 

She said all remaining vaccine mandates will end in two weeks on Sept 26. From then on, whether workers were vaccinated or not was at the employer’s discretion.

Travel requirements

Formal vaccination and covid testing requirements for all arriving travellers, including for air and ship crews, will also end, although testing on days one and five/six will be encouraged. 

The seven-day isolation period will remain but only for positive covid cases.

Household contacts will only be asked to do a daily rapid antigen test. If this is negative, they can "go about their life as normal". 

Covid minister Ayesha Verrall said an extra 40,000 anti-viral medicine courses were expected to enter the country in the coming days. 

“That, she said, would allow anyone over the age of 65, and Māori and Pacific people over the age of 50, or anyone who meets Pharmac requirements, to access those treatments in the early stages of contracting the virus. 

Too slow for students

However, Act leader David Seymour said the changes had been too slow in coming for international students, with Australia stealing a march on NZ's universities.

Seymour said with the number of international students at just 4.5% of pre-covid levels, versus 38% in Australia, it was little wonder that NZ universities were planning to "dump staff by the hundreds". 

Last week the Auckland University of Technology announced it will restructure with the potential loss of 230 jobs. The university has an estimated 4,354 staff, including more than 2,100 full-time and fixed-term employees.

“It’s not just that we’re slow. Educators in other countries are benefiting from our tardiness. Kiwi universities have to watch their Aussie counterparts reaping the benefits of how slow Labour’s been to reopen New Zealand.

“The value these students can bring is not just economic, but also social. They broaden the horizons of our Kiwi students and become lifelong ambassadors for New Zealand."