Many Northland businesses are champing at the bit to return under alert level 2 after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's announcement yesterday.
Ardern outlined the rules for many different aspects of daily life if New Zealand moved to the second alert level, a decision which would be made by Cabinet on Monday.
Under level 2, shops, barbers, bars and cafes could be open, people were no longer restricted to their bubble, gatherings would be allowed up to 100 people (indoors or outdoors) and domestic travel would be allowed as long as it was done sensibly and safely.
However, Ardern said the allowances under level 2 may be implemented in a staggered approach, depending on advice from the Ministry of Health. She also emphasised physical distancing was a necessity as well as appropriate hygiene practices.
Alert Level Two - Key Facts:
• Businesses can restart for staff and customers
• Bubbles can cease
• Domestic travel recommences
• Schools and early learning centres can open
• Gatherings both indoors and outdoors are limited to 100 people
• Public places reopen
• Sport and recreation comes back on-stream, including professional sports competitions
• Home gatherings must be kept small
• Hospitality must follow the three S's – seated, separated, single-server
In level 2, hairdressers would be required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, which included masks and gloves.
"I'm itching to get some work happening," Whangārei Brothers Barber owner Minnie Cavanagh said.
"Every day, we've had texts and calls [for appointments] since the beginning of level 3."
For 45-year-old Cavanagh, alert levels 3 and 4 had been especially hard financially, forcing her to move out of her rental and live in a caravan on her parents' property with her 2-year-old child.
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However, the barber of 20 years was not taking any chances and had ordered a number of plastic face shields for her nine staff across two shops.
"It's really important that our customers feel like they are in good hands and that they are safe," she said.
Normally, the shops operated purely from walk-ins but under level 2 Cavanagh said appointments were essential, people would be sanitised in and out of the building, and new gowns would be used for each customer.
Aiming to finish with a customer inside 30 minutes, Cavanagh said some time-consuming and intimate services, such as skin fades and beard trimmings, would not be offered.
In the hospitality sector, Ardern outlined all businesses needed to satisfy three principles - seated, separation and service.
Customers would need to be seated to avoid congestion, separation between people and tables was necessary, and the people would need to be served at their table rather than a counter and by a limited number of staff members.
Co-owner of Whangārei's Split Bar and Restaurant Karl Marsland, who has been operating under alert level 3 through contactless takeaway and delivery, welcomed the news.
"Obviously we were excited that we can open up," he said.
"Albeit with a few changes to the set-up and some additional rules and regulations, but at least we can get the doors open and get some people in to eat and have a beer."
With the restaurant's capacity between 30-40 people, Marsland said that would have to decrease under the new guidelines, but was well-suited to keeping diners separated.
"We have quite big tables, bigger than normal, so the distance between them is pretty good and we don't have the tables crammed in the restaurant, so we already have a reasonable space between tables."
Marsland said he expected further guidance from Hospitality Association New Zealand today but speculated with respect to servers, only one staff member would be allowed to service a section of tables.
Northland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Steve Smith said moving to level 2 was good news for everybody, particularly the hospitality and retail sectors.
''Pretty much everybody will welcome this and it means that pretty much every business can open, with a few exceptions, as long they adhere to the health guidelines," he said.
Smith said some of the larger restaurants, which may need large numbers of people to justify opening, may not be able to get the numbers through due to the social distancing requirements.
Kaipara mayor Jason Smith said the move would be great for trading but warned people to continue physical distancing and good hygiene practices.
"People will still need to be cautious, but it's important that people will have far more freedom, which is really crucial in a tight-knit community like the Kaipara."
With the tourism sector able to operate under level 2, Far North mayor John Carter said it was particularly good news for the Far North's tourism industry, which made up a huge chunk of its economy.
"Those tourism businesses in the Bay or Islands, Kerikeri, Hokianga, Doubtless Bay, Kaitaia, will be hoping that this means we have visitors coming from Auckland and further south and we will certainly be encouraging that," he said.
Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai She said many council services would be able to reopen, such as libraries, but restrictions on gatherings could cause issues.
"I'm hoping there will be a good contact tracing app in place when we do go down to level 2 to help," she said.
What To Remember:
• Covid-19 is still out there. Play it safe
• Keep your distance from other people in public
• If you're sick, stay home. Don't go to work or school. Don't socialise
• If you have symptoms of cold or flu call your doctor or Healthline and get tested
• Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands
• Sneeze and cough into your elbow, regularly disinfect surfaces
• If you have been told to self-isolate you must do so immediately
• Keep a track of where you've been and who you've seen