Relief and excitement are some of what Tauranga's business owners are feeling as they prepare to open their doors under alert level 2 - but there are some concerns about whether the public is ready.
Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Cabinet's decision to phase in the Covid-19 alert level 2.
Under the move, retail operators, malls, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and other public spaces can reopen with physical distancing measures in place from Thursday .
From Monday schools and early childhood centres will open to all students.
Then on Thursday next week bars will be able to open adhering to the three S rules - seated service, social distancing and single servers. Pubs and bars will be allowed to open earlier if they adhere to rules including serving patrons a meal, not just drinks.
"In 10 days' time we will have reopened most businesses in New Zealand," Ardern said yesterday.
Tauranga's businesses are excited to re-open and while Tauranga's business leaders are welcoming the move to level 2, Tauranga's Chamber of Commerce says the 10-person limit will impact some.
Ardern said level 4 and level 3 had broken the chain of transmission, but level 2 meant people out and about again.
Celia Greenslades from Greenslades Furniture was ecstatic to finally know when the store could re-open and was looking forward to seeing customers again.
She said staff had been preparing for level 2 and believed when they opened their doors at 9am on Thursday it would be a seamless transition.
"It's a really good feeling, we're all ecstatic, big smiles," Greenslades said.
At Adrenaline Forest Bay of Plenty, national operations manager Ian Olson said the restriction of 10 people meant they would need to be strict in accepting bookings.
They had lost 2500 bookings since Covid-19 struck New Zealand and with the loss of the international market they would be reliant on domestic tourism.
Olson said they would be working towards opening for this weekend and hoped to see people supporting the business. However, he knew the pandemic had impacted people's income and people would still be cautious when it came to being out and about.
Julie Hammon, who owns Hammon Diamond Jeweller, also expected caution in the Tauranga CBD.
She said she did not expect a "stampede" when she opened on Thursday and would trade at reduced hours between 10am and 4pm, with restricted entry, sanitary measures in place and checkpoints to record contact details.
She said operations would be different but it was an exciting time.
"It's exciting but it's such an unknown. People will still be quite cautious," Hammon said.
"It's just exciting to get the doors open and operating again."
Keyvan Baneh from K1 Barbers is still getting his head around operating in level 2 and is ordering the personal protective equipment he will need in the hope of having it all ready to open on Thursday.
Within minutes of the announcement, he received a flurry of messages from customers asking if he would be open from Thursday. He's expecting to be busy once his doors do open.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said while it was pleasing a range of businesses could open from tomorrow, it was a shame the hospitality industry would have to wait a week longer with bars not allowed to reopen until May 21.
"The 10-person limit continues to put stress on a number of Bay of Plenty venues, including weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. I hope the Government's Budget announcements on Thursday can support these operators who continue to face further restrictions," Cowley said.
"Overall, the chamber supports the Government's announcement to proceed to level 2 and look to further reduce restrictions within a fortnight.
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell was pleased the Government would move the country into level 2 from Thursday.
"The cost to the country is massive and its impact has been felt most significantly on our small business economy and the livelihoods lost," Powell said.
He said the Bay of Plenty Buy Local campaign would get under way in earnest this week with the launch of Tourism Bay of Plenty's "No Place Like Home" campaign as well as a collaboration between the Tauranga, Greerton and Mount mainstreets called "Buy Local; Buy Tauranga" encouraging local residents to spend in the city.
"By working together, we will have a bigger and better impact because the bottom line, literally, is that spending locally saves businesses."
Western Bay of Plenty mayor Garry Webber described the announcement as a "staged return to reality" that put a lot of responsibility of members of the public to ensure they followed the rules.
When it comes to community rugby, Bay of Plenty Rugby Union's general manager Mike Rogers said safety for the community was paramount and they would not be rushing into a return to play.
Realistically, he said the union was targeting a June 13 return for senior men's club rugby but the format of any competition was yet to be decided. Details for the women's game were still being worked through, he said.
"Even though I guess from Thursday we're allowed to look at a return to play we're working hard for our clubs to ensure we're in a really strong position to deliver all the necessary measures."
Those measures included following all the contact tracing and social distancing and mass gathering rules, while also taking other sports into consideration, working with Sport Bay of Plenty and other codes.
For secondary school and junior rugby, Rogers said a term 3 start date was the most realistic date to work from, with discussions still to happen with school and junior committees.
Alert level 2 will be reviewed in two weeks, and if the numbers are still looking good, gatherings of larger sizes will be permitted.
- Physical distancing, infection prevention and control requirements must be met at gatherings and events and attendees should be recorded.
- All businesses can open if they can do it safely and they should follow public health guidance about physical distancing and contact tracing. Alternative ways of working are still encouraged where possible.
- Businesses should maintain physical distancing of 1m between groups of customers.
-Hospitality businesses should keep groups seated, separated, and use a single server if possible.
- Many public venues, such as museums, cinemas, food courts and markets, will be open again.
- Public conservation land will reopen, public swimming pools and gyms will reopen with restrictions. Boating and motorised water sports will resume. Sport activities (including those that involve close contact) are allowed but only if good contact registers are maintained.
- School and early learning services are safe to open.
- Tertiary education facilities will implement public health requirements and physical distancing as appropriate and should follow strict cleaning protocol.