Concerns have been raised about travellers not wearing masks or needing to show proof of eligibility to fly out of Auckland Airport.
The airport says it was allowing travellers "a period of grace" on Monday after the level 3 restrictions were announced, but is enforcing the Covid-19 level 3 lockdown rules from today, Tuesday.
Signs have been put up outside the domestic and international terminals saying, "Passengers only at terminals".
But a leading epidemiologist says the lack of masks and checks on Monday was a sign the current Covid-19 alert level system has become "too ambiguous" and needs a review, particularly in relation to masks.
Auckland entered day one of alert level 3 restrictions on Monday, and the rest of New Zealand alert level 2, after three cases of the highly transmissible UK variant of Covid-19 were found in a South Auckland family.
Monday saw no new community cases announced, although director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield warned the days ahead would be "crucial" with mass testing results yet to come in, particularly from Papatoetoe High School where one of the cases was a student.
Despite this, a Herald reporter travelling home to the South Island from Auckland on Monday - who could do so without any exemption because Auckland is not her principal address - said dozens of people were in the domestic terminal without masks or not wearing them properly.
A message came over the loudspeaker saying it was "mandatory to wear a face mask prior to boarding" and while some people donned the coverings others continued to ignore the message, she said.
A second message said masks had to be put on "before entering the boarding queue", she said.
Travellers were also permitted to enter the terminal without providing proof they had permission or were eligible to travel under level 3.
The Herald reporter said she was asked to show an itinerary and photo ID at the door of the terminal, but not proof of why she was eligible to travel.
"Last time I travelled out of Auckland in level 3 - on an exemption for work - I had to show my full paperwork.
"Thy guy behind me was waved through with no request for ID as I dug around for mine in my wallet.
"We're trying to stop the spread and the airport terminal seems like a pretty crucial place.
"What's the point of wearing a mask on an airport bus then a flight but not in between when you're exposed to a lot more people and surfaces as you move through the terminal?"
On November 19 new rules came in requiring people to wear a face covering on public transport and aircraft, but this was the same at levels 1 and 2 and 3, despite the risk of community transmission being very different at each level.
At level 3 people were "strongly recommended", but not required, to wear masks in public spaces, particularly in enclosed areas where social distancing was difficult.
Similar but less forceful wording was used for the lower levels too.
Epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker said this was simply too ambiguous for people to follow and was creating a gap in the system and anxiety.
"I think the rules around masks need to be tightened up and the alert level system itself reviewed," Baker said.
"It was a good system a year ago, but things have changed, including that we now appreciate the value of masks, but it has not been fully integrated into the alert level system, more as an afterthought."
Baker said changes could involve clear rules about where masks were required at different levels.
"We know the virus is most effective indoors with crowds, and particularly where people might know each other and be tempted to enter conversations."
At alert level 3 an airport terminal with people travelling to areas in lower levels was a clear example, he said.
In fact, people were more likely to contract the virus in a crowded terminal than on an aircraft due to planes' high-quality ventilation systems.
"The ventilation system on aircraft means they likely work better than in the airport itself, and in particular I have seen some congestion around security, it is an obvious environment to crack down on.
"But overall we should be thinking of an integrated approach to the whole travel journey.
"It defeats the point if people are required to wear masks on the plane, but not prior to boarding.
"It needs to be absolutely unambiguous where to use masks at the different levels.
"Leaving it voluntary does not work. I think people have a strong sense of fairness, and that has been part of our successful response. Also New Zealanders are not used to masks, so I think we have to try much harder."
Like masks, the rules around evidence for travel were also ambiguous.
People are required to carry such evidence, but it is not clear if they are required to be asked for it before boarding a flight.
"If at level 3 we are restricting travel in a certain way then we need that to work as intended and be serious, not have it as voluntary," Baker said.
Auckland Airport general operations manager Anna Cassels-Brown said while it was not a requirement to control access to the international and domestic terminal buildings they'd now limited access to only people travelling that day.
They'd requested travellers come prepared with their itinerary, ticket or e-boarding pass plus photo ID and documents supporting their reason for travel.
Given the short notice between alert level 3 being announced and coming into effect, there'd been a grace period to allow people to get organised.
"From midnight [Monday], the Aviation Security Service will be enforcing the requirement to show all required travel documentation," Cassels-Brown said.
The Government hadn't made it mandatory to wear a face mask until boarding a flight, she said, but travellers were "strongly encouraged to don a mask or face covering before they enter the terminal".
"It's important we all play our part in managing the spread of Covid-19 and take the advice of Government health professionals seriously."