Today Northlanders enter a new world of shops, cafes, haircuts, gym sessions and hugs with the grandchildren denied them for the past seven weeks.
The end of Covid-19 alert level 3, however, doesn't mean life will go back to the way it was before the virus.
Businesses face a raft of level 2 rules aimed at reducing the risk of a second wave of infections — as has happened in South Korea and Singapore — and strict limits remain on the size of social events. Most gatherings will be limited to 10 people but following a public outcry the limit for funerals and tangi was raised to 50 late yesterday.
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Northlanders are also being asked to maintain social distancing of 2m from people they don't know and, if they're making the most of the new freedom to travel within New Zealand, to keep a record of people they interact with.
Schools will have to wait until Monday to return to a new version of normality while bars will be allowed to reopen a week from today.
Today's milestone couldn't come soon enough for Northland businesses struggling with fixed costs but zero income since March 25.
They include Kerikeri restaurant La Taza Del Diablo, where the saloon doors will reopen at 4pm today.
Head chef Liam Davis said the number of seats had been reduced by half to allow the required spacing. There would be one server per table, no ordering at the bar and frequent sanitising.
Reduced seating would hit the bottom line but Davis said he was looking forward to being open.
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''We're just happy to feed the people and give them a good experience. The whole staff is really amping to get back in there.''
The Mexican-themed restaurant didn't open for takeaways during level 3 with staff instead using the time to repaint, replant the garden and devise a new menu.
All staff had been retained thanks to the Government's Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme.
Last week Minnie Cavanagh, owner of Brothers Barber in Whangārei, told the Advocate she had been forced to leave her rental and move into a caravan on her parents' property because of the lockdown's financial hit.
She was ''itching to get back to work'' today but also a little anxious because her team faced a new way of working.
Normally her Bank St and Kamo shops operated on a walk-in basis but she was now required to take appointments. Her barbers would wear PPE and only two would work at a time instead of the usual three or four to allow social distancing.
Her online booking system was already ''chockablock''.
''It's just going gangbusters,'' Cavanagh said.
Northland medical officer of health Catherine Jackson urged Northlanders to stick to the level 2 rules even if it felt like the crisis was over.
''Covid-19 is still out there. Play it safe as no one wants a second wave. If you're sick, stay home, even if your symptoms seem minor. Don't go to work or school and don't socialise.''
Jackson also urged Northlanders to keep their distance from people they didn't know and keep practising good health etiquette. That included washing hands for 20 seconds and drying them well, sneezing into their arms, and not touching their faces.
Meanwhile, with traffic expected to increase dramatically from today, police are urging motorists to take care on the roads.
"Some of us may not have driven at all for seven weeks or will have taken only short trips to the supermarket, so we may be feeling a bit rusty behind the wheel or overwhelmed by the number of cars back on the road again," national road policing manager Gini Welch said.
"We expect there will be a lot of people out and about this weekend meeting up with family and friends they haven't been able to see since before alert level 4.''
Reducing speed would be particularly important when children returned to school from Monday.
New Zealand moved from the ''waiting room'' of Covid-19 alert level 3 to the ''play it safe'' phase of level 2 at 11.59pm last night. So what does it mean for you?
No more bubbles
Under level 2 you can leave your household bubble and socialise with friends and wider family but with a maximum of 10 people at a time. So, dinner with a group of friends is okay, but a party is not. When you're in public places stay 2m away from people you don't know. In places such as cafes, restaurants and shops stay at least 1m away.
Most shops, cafes, restaurants (but not bars), gyms and health services will reopen today. Hooray! However, businesses have to keep a record of everyone who comes onto the premises for contact tracing. They also need to maintain 1m social distancing between groups of customers. Each restaurant table must have a single server and patrons can't go to the bar to order or pay. Big retailers have to limit the number of customers inside at any one time. Businesses which rely on close contact, such as hairdressers, will need to use PPE (personal protective equipment).
Social gatherings are limited to 10 people at a time. That includes weddings, religious services and public meetings, but funerals and tangi can have up to 50. Restaurants can't take bookings for more than 10 people. Some larger gatherings will be allowed at venues where there's enough space for everyone to be seated at least 1m apart. The 10-person rule may be relaxed in two weeks' time even if level 2 remains in force.
Sport and recreation
Hunting, biking and tramping on public conservation land is allowed, as is swimming at public pools and going to the gym (with restrictions). Boating and motorised watersports are also permitted. Contact sports such as professional rugby can go ahead but only with good contact tracing.
Schools and tertiary education institutes will reopen on Monday, May 18.
Hanging out for a drink with your mates? You'll have to wait until Thursday, May 21. Pubs that provide meals can open today but must make sure all patrons are seated, separated and have a single server.
Domestic travel is permitted from today but you should keep a record of which services you use and who you've been in contact with. Minimise stops on the way to your destination and keep your distance from people you don't know. Limit your use of public transport or use it at off-peak times.
Go to covid19.govt.nz/alert-system/alert-level-2 for the full level 2 rules. And keep washing your hands!