Watch Live: Prime Minister announces changes to traffic light system
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced Northland will join the rest of the country in the orange setting from 11.59pm tonight.
"Vaccination rates have continued to increase in Northland and are now at 89 per cent first dose. The easing of the Auckland boundary over summer did not drive an increase in cases so we believe it is safe for Northland to join the rest of the country at orange," she said.
Speaking to media from New Plymouth, where she is currently at the Labour Party caucus retreat, Ardern also announced that if Omicron transmission was detected in the community, all of New Zealand would move to red within 24 to 48 hours.
"We won't be able to stop Omicron from entering the community, but we can use tools to try and slow it down," she said. "We need to be on guard, and ready."
"New Zealand has done an incredible job in reducing Delta case numbers especially in light of the Auckland boundary lifting last month by staying at orange we will be able to hold onto these gains while we continue to make preparations for Omicron.
"When we have evidence of Omicron transmitting in the community we won't use lockdowns, instead the whole country will move into red."
She said overseas evidence showed it could take as little as 14 days for Omicron cases to grow from hundreds to thousands.
"The red setting allows businesses to remain open and domestic travel to continue, but includes mask-wearing and gathering restrictions to help slow the spread of the virus and keep pressure off our health system."
"For the most part, people will be well enough to stay at home with whānau. So think about what you'd need to stay home for that period."