New Zealand to stay at Covid-19 Orange traffic light setting until at least September

New Zealand will remain at the orange Covid-19 traffic light setting while hospitalisations remain elevated and pressure on the health system continues through winter.

Under the orange setting you must wear a mask in most indoor settings. However, you can visit cafes and bars, attend gatherings and events, and go to gyms and hairdressers with no capacity limits or distancing requirements.

There are to be no changes to rules for case isolation and household contact quarantine requirements - and the next review setting will be in September.

Minister for the Covid-19 Response Dr Ayesha Verrall said significant pressure on hospitals meant current measures were still required.

"The health system usually sees elevated pressure through September, so we would be hoping to see some sustained reductions in both cases and hospitalisations then.

"The good news is current modelling suggests Covid-19 cases may have peaked at around 11,000 cases per day mid-July. However due to the current high levels of Covid-19 infection in the community, the corresponding burden on primary and hospital care systems, and the highest levels of mortality seen in the outbreak so far the Covid-19 Protection Framework setting has been kept the same.

"Maintaining our Orange setting a while longer supports the winter package of measures announced earlier in July which included easier access to RATs and masks, expanded eligibility for antivirals and easier access to them for eligible people, and availability of the second booster to all people over 50."

While the government's Omicron response was "heading in the right direction", loosening settings could risk infections rising again, Verrall said.

"We just need to stay the course a little longer."

She said the next review would be in a month, and the orange setting would not be forever.

"That's why we regularly review these settings ... the types of considerations we take into account are case numbers, are hospitalisations, and also the impact that's having on the community."

It was very difficult to put a specific number on the thresholds though.

"One of the things about, say health system pressure is that indirectly other things have an impact on that. So for example at the beginning of this outbreak, we were facing the combined pressure of Covid and flu.

"If we had just a number of Covid cases alone that we were making our decisions based on we wouldn't really be getting a good picture of what was happening."