With the country possibly heading into Covid alert level 2 next week, Far North District Council is reminding the district's shop owners that only essential businesses can let customers inside during level 3.

The lifting of level 4 two weeks ago meant a wider range of businesses could reopen as long as there was no customer contact.

However, only businesses deemed essential under level 4 — such as supermarkets, dairies and service stations — can let customers into their premises.

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That has sparked inventiveness from Northland business owners with, for example, Davis Hall of Baker's Crust in Whangārei building a ''pie hole'' for non-contact sales and others setting up pavement counters for collection of online orders.

Baker's Crust owner Davis Hall, of Whangārei, is serving customers through a
Baker's Crust owner Davis Hall, of Whangārei, is serving customers through a "pie hole". Photo / Kristin Edge

A Kaikohe business owner, however, said at least one food outlet in the town was continuing to allow customers inside, breaking level 3 rules and risking the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

When she questioned the shop owner he told her he had permission from the council.

Far North District Council district services manager Dean Myburgh said staff conducted contactless compliance checks of food and alcohol stores last week.

''A few businesses were found to be operating without notifying the council first or had inappropriate safety measures. All have now been contacted and advice given. We are confident all Far North businesses are now adhering to Covid-19 level 3 guidelines,'' he said.

Level 3 rules allowed some retail and food premises to open but the public could not enter the stores.

As of Friday there were 106 food premises operating in the Far North. All had been contacted by the council to confirm appropriate staff and customer safety measures had been implemented, Myburgh said.

Since the country went into lockdown, the council had sent regular updates to all 426 registered food outlets and 260 alcohol licence holders in the Far North.

The updates were checked first by MBIE to ensure they accurately reflected Covid-19 response guidelines, Myburgh said.

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The Government will make a decision on Monday on when we will move to alert level 2, which will allow far more businesses to open.

■ Anyone with concerns about businesses not complying with level 3 guidelines can lodge a complaint at covid19.govt.nz/alert-system/covid-19-compliance or email council's Environmental Health Services team at ehs@fndc.govt.nz.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website