Hundreds flocked to Wellington's Oriental Parade this month, despite the nationwide lockdown. Photos showed groups of people walking side-by-side within 2m distances, vapes in hand, and masks were scarce.
With the more virulent Delta strain of Covid-19 health officials have warned people to stay well away from each other because the virus can spread by people simply passing each other. But suppose you were one of those vigilantes who found yourself frolicking along Oriental Parade, what should you have done? And what were the potential consequences?
Nationally, according to police figures as at August 25, 69 people have been charged with a total of 75 offences since alert level 4 came into effect.
Of the 75 charges filed, 47 were for failing to comply with Order (Covid-19), 16 were for failing to comply with directions, prohibitions, and restrictions, and two were for either assaulting, threatening, hindering, or obstructing an enforcement officer.
In the same time period, 190 formal warnings were issued - 50 were for Health Act breaches. Police have received a total of 9259 online breach notifications. Police have issued 909 infringements.
The majority of infringements - 827 - were for people failing to remain at home. A total of 31 people failed to wear a mask, 30 people failed to physically distance themselves from others, 10 people obstructed or hindered a medical officer, or person assisting with a medical officer.
Five people in control of a workplace failed to display a QR code, two people failed to wear a mask on public transport, two people in control of a business failed to close their premises, and two people organised a gathering in an outdoor space.
Police have urged people to stick to the rules, but what exactly can you and can't you do? The Covid-19 Public Health Response (Alert Level Requirements) Order (No 9) 2021 aims to prevent, and limit the risk of, the outbreak or spread of Covid-19. Let's look at the order in detail:
Contact tracing under all levels
Workplaces are legally required to ensure there's a copy of a QR code and it's displayed in a prominent place at or near the main entrance of the workplace under all alert levels, unless the workplace is a vehicle and in some cases if the workplace is a dwelling house.
Additionally, workplaces must have record-keeping systems and processes in place to enable contact tracing. The Privacy Act applies in terms of how this information is collected, kept, and used.
Stay-at-home requirements under level 4
All people must remain home except if they're an essential worker. People can leave their place of residence to access a level 4 business to meet their or their bubble's needs, and if that business is in the same district or nearest to you, and it's operating in compliance with the requirements.
People can leave their residence if they're working at a level 4 business, or if travel is necessary to complete the work. In terms of exercise and recreational activities, people can go outside for a walk, run, or skip if wherever they go is readily accessible.
Note, this may include using a vehicle. But in doing so, all people under alert level 4 must comply with the 2m physical distancing rule so far as is reasonably practicable.
People are not allowed to swim, surf, scuba-dive, sail, tramp, fly, or hunt in a motorised vehicle. Essentially, people aren't allowed to complete any activity that exposes them to danger, and which would require search and rescue services.
People must not organise a gathering in any outdoor space, or attend a gathering in any outdoor place. "Gathering" is defined as people who are intermingling in a group, but excludes people who remain at least 2m away from each other.
Face masks under level 4
Every person is required to wear a face mask on public transport services, and on domestic air transport services.
An amendment was made so that every person must wear a face covering in supermarkets and dairies; petrol stations; licensing trust; pharmacies; food banks; self-service laundries; hardware and DIY stores; public areas of courts and tribunals; social and community-based services; arrival and departure points for public transport services; and when visiting a health service.
Interestingly the rules are a little vague when it comes to wearing a mask while exercising or engaging in recreational activities.
People do not have to wear a face mask if there's an emergency; wearing a face covering isn't safe in the circumstances; if visibility of the mouth is essential for communication; if a person is asked to remove a mask to ascertain identity; or if the mask isn't otherwise required or authorised by law.
You can remove your mask if you're eating or drinking, taking medicine, if you're under 12, or if it is unsuitable due to a physical or mental illness, condition, or disability.
If a person intentionally fails to comply with the rules, they could be subject to a prison sentence of up to six months, or a fine of up to $4000. Infringement offences could land you with a fee of $300 or a fine of up to $1000.
What does all of this tell you? I'm not going to go outside, talk to anyone, and drink my "handy" alone in my room for at least the next two weeks.