Jacinda Ardern admits Covid plan will lead to two-tier society in New Zealand

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Jacinda Ardern announces an target of fully vaccinating 90 percent of eligible people to end coronavirus lockdowns - Pool /Pool
Jacinda Ardern announces an target of fully vaccinating 90 percent of eligible people to end coronavirus lockdowns - Pool /Pool

Jacinda Ardern has acknowledged that Covid policies will create a two-tier system in New Zealand where non-vaccinated citizens do not enjoy the same rights as those who have received the jab. 

During a video interview, the prime minister said the current rules had granted vaccinated citizens more freedoms. 

"You've basically said, and you probably don't see it like this, but two different classes of people if you're vaccinated or unvaccinated. If you're vaccinated you have all these rights," asked a journalist from the New Zealand Herald.

"That is what it is," said Ardern, nodding. She said the new plans were designed to boost vaccination rates and public confidence.

Watch: New Zealand sets 90% vaccine target to end lockdown: Ardern

Ardern announced on Friday that 90 percent of New Zealanders needed to be fully vaccinated in each region before the whole country can start loosening restrictions.

Under a "red" setting in the new traffic-light system, those who are vaccinated will be able to move around and use services relatively freely. Businesses will also remain open. 

However, those who are not vaccinated will face much tougher restrictions. They will only be able to gather in groups of up to 10 and will not be able to use "close contact" businesses, such as restaurants, bars and gyms. 

Only 58 percent of the population is fully vaccinated - Bloomberg
Only 58 percent of the population is fully vaccinated - Bloomberg

“If you are still unvaccinated, not only will you be more at risk of catching Covid-19, but many of the freedoms others enjoy will be out of reach," she said.

"No one wants that to happen but we need to minimise the threat of the virus, which is now mainly spreading amongst unvaccinated people.”

As of Sunday, only 58 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. 

National leader Judith Collins condemned the plan as “dismaying, confusing and complicated” and that Aucklanders would end up “being held to ransom by some people who don’t want to get vaccinated.”

Concerns have been raised that New Zealand's Maori population will be disproportionately impacted by the new rules as vaccination rates remain low. 

The new traffic light system marks an end to the country's long-held Covid elimination strategy, which meant banning international travel and imposing strict lockdowns whenever any cases were detected. 

Ardern has largely won praise for her response to the pandemic, with New Zealand having suffered a relatively low 28 deaths and 5,638 cases.

Watch: NZ coronavirus outbreak spreads to South Island

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