It's official, Northland will move down to Covid alert level 3 from 11.59pm tonight.
And while the lowering of levels for Northland won't lead to total freedom, it does allow more people to work, and expanded exercise options along with takeaways - as long as they are contactless.
The Government has today confirmed that Northland will join the rest of the country - bar Auckland - at alert level 3 from tonight. Auckland will stay at level 4 for up to two weeks.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said with no cases in the region, and all wastewater testing in Northland coming back negative, Northland will move to alert level 3 from 11.59pm tonight.
"Northland will now be treated the same as the rest of the country, with settings reviewed on September 6," Ardern said.
She thanked Northlanders for their patience and understanding.
The move has been confirmed after no cases of Covid were found anywhere in Northland and wastewater testing results from across the region came back with no signs of Covid in them.
Whangārei Mayor Sheryl Mai said the move down to Alert Level 3 was "great news" as well as confirmation all wastewater tested came back negative.
There were still things people and businesses, she said, could not do and reminded businesses in particular about measures they need to put in place during contactless trading under the new alert level.
Unlike those who miss fast food and coffee, Mai said she would love to return to the council chambers and for council staff to go back to work as a number of projects such as the new Civic Centre needed attention.
NorthChamber chief executive Stephen Smith said Alert Level 3 was good news for businesses that were able to offer click and collect but a lot of smaller retailers were not able to do so until Northland moved to level 2.
"The negative wastewater test gives a lot of confidence in the economy and the fact the virus is not in our community is a huge relief,'' Smith said.
Northland Mayoral Forum chair and Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith said with the Prime Minister's announcement, Northland's economy could open up again albeit in a small way.
"Northlanders need to be congratulated for being patient in the last couple of weeks. We still need to remain vigilant though," he said.
On the impending movement of police border checkpoints to inside the Auckland regional boundary, Smith reminded people intending to cross the border to familiarise themselves with the new rules under alert level 3 as they were different to those set down last year under the same alert level.
Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said of the 336 close contacts in Northland, 96 per cent returned tests - all negative.
Bloomfield said all wastewater testing done across Northland on Monday and Tuesday had came back negative for Covid 19.
He said essential workers crossing the boundary, need to get tested in the next couple of days, even if they were not displaying any symptoms. That was part of the wider surveillance testing to ensure no cases crossed the border with those commuting workers.
"Even at alert level 3, people should be staying at home and a tight boundary around our level 4 area is required," he said.
The move down has come as great relief for the region, which can now open up more under level 3 - but there are still strict rules about wearing face masks when inside public buildings such as supermarkets and dairies.
Police checkpoints aiming to prevent illegal travel during lockdown will shift about 15km south to Auckland's northern border tonight to stop anybody fleeing Auckland to head north.
Police have been operating 24-hour checkpoints just north of Kaiwaka, at Brynderwyn and south of Waipū Cove, effectively cutting much of Kaipara off from the Whangārei District.
That will change from 11.59pm tonight.
The new checkpoints will be at the SH1/Mangawhai Rd junction; on Mangawhai Rd north of Coal Hill Rd; Black Swamp Rd west of Rako Rd; the Mangawhai Rd/Cames Rd junction; and Mangawhai Rd/Ryan Rd.
Level 3 changes:
With Northland dropping to level 3 from 11.59pm tonight the changes won't be huge - but there is more to it than "level 4 with takeaways".
Northlanders will still have to stay in their household bubbles, but those bubbles can be expanded to include close family and whanau or to bring in caregivers or support isolated people.
Gatherings of up to 10 people are permitted but only for weddings and civil unions, funerals and tangihanga/hui mate. Physical distancing and public health measures are still required.
Travel continues to be limited to work, shopping or exercise in the local area. Travel between regions is restricted to essential services.
Level 3 does open up a lot more recreation activity, including surfing (going to your local break only), day tramps, mountain biking on easy trails, swimming in safe local spots and horse riding.
People taking part in water activities should stay within 200m of the shore. Stores such as Mitre 10, The Warehouse and Bunnings will remain closed but can offer contactless "click and collect" or delivery.
Perhaps the change most eagerly anticipated by Northlanders is the return of fast food.
Cafes, restaurants and takeaways can open for contactless pick-up, delivery or drive-through. However, on-site dining is not permitted.
Face masks are still required on public transport, at healthcare facilities, and inside any businesses permitted at level 3 that involve customer contact such as supermarkets, pharmacies and takeaways.
There were 49 new Covid 19 cases reported today, all in Auckland.