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Green-Orange-Red: New Zealand PM Advocates Discrimination Based on Vaccination Status

Jonathan Walker
Jonathan loves talking politics, economics and philosophy. He carries unique perspectives on everything making him a rather odd mix of liberal-conservative with a streak of independent Austrian thought.
Published: October 28, 2021
COVID-19 vaccination status may soon be used to divide members of society in New Zealand.
COVID-19 vaccination status may soon be used to divide members of society in New Zealand. (Image: mufidpwt via Pixabay)

The Prime Minister (PM) of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, has announced that she is planning to create a two-tiered society based on vaccination status against Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Ardern had recently unveiled a new “traffic light” system to address the coronavirus situation in her country.

The traffic light system allows fully vaccinated individuals to use their vaccine certificates and enjoy maximum freedom. Businesses that enforce vaccine certificates will have fewer restrictions compared to those that refuse to do so. Moreover, businesses that do not comply could miss out on government support.

The system involves three levels of restrictions – green, orange, and red. Only after 90 percent of eligible New Zealanders are fully vaccinated in each District Health Board (DHB) will the traffic light system come into effect.

At present, around 70 percent of the eligible population in the country are fully vaccinated. After the traffic light system is implemented, restrictions for vaccinated individuals will be relaxed. Until then, the lockdowns will continue.

“If you want to be guaranteed that no matter what setting we are in, that you can go to bars, restaurants, and close proximity businesses like a hairdresser, you will need to be vaccinated… If you are not vaccinated there will be everyday things you will miss out on,” Ardern said.

When a reporter asked Ardern whether the traffic light system would create two classes of people, with vaccinated people getting more rights, she replied, “That is what it is, yep.” 

The New Zealand PM’s traffic lights system has faced harsh criticism. “The PM says no one will be left behind… What she means is no one will be left behind except for Māori. Let the Squid Games begin,” Rawiri Waititi, co-leader of the Maori party, said to The Guardian

Waititi was referencing Netflix’s hit South Korean show, Squid Games, in which multiple people facing financial hardships risk their lives to play children’s games to win money.

Member of Parliament (MP) Judith Collins criticized the 90 percent vaccination target for easing restrictions, saying that the threshold condemns every New Zealander to “months of lockdowns and uncertainty.” Collins wants New Zealand’s economy to be reopened domestically and internationally at 85 percent full vaccination or by Dec. 1, whichever is earlier.

“Labour failed to prepare & plan for Delta, & now NZers are being locked down for months on end. Labour’s plan, which changes by the week & is clearly being made up as they go along, is deeply confusing and will just mean more anguish for Aucklanders and the rest of the country,” Collins said in a tweet.

New Zealand is not the only country planning a two-tiered social system based on vaccination status. In Austria, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg is also considering a similar system.

If the number of intensive care unit (ICU) patients hits 500, the chancellor plans to restrict entry to businesses like restaurants and bars only to the vaccinated. If the number reaches 600, unvaccinated individuals will be forced to remain at home and not allowed outside except for specific reasons.

“The pandemic is not yet in the rearview mirror… We are about to stumble into a pandemic of the unprotected,” Schallenberg said. He stated that there are too many vaccines “hesitators and procrastinators,” and hopes his plans will send a signal.