The Government has revealed what life will look like when the country moves to alert level 2 - we can leave our bubbles to see our families and friends, and bars, malls, hairdressers and schools will reopen, with precautions.
After six weeks in an unprecedented state of lockdown, New Zealand could move to the less restrictive alert regime as soon as Wednesday next week. Cabinet will decide on Monday whether the country is ready to move down from level 3.
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says people should be able to give their friends and family a "quick hug".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the aim at level 2 was still to reduce close contact with strangers. "It is very unlikely we have hunted down every case of Covid-19. So we all have to stay on guard."
Thursday's announcement is designed to give people and businesses clarity around the next step.
So what are the rules for level 2?
Moving to alert level 2
When we move to alert level 2 we can leave our bubbles and reconnect with friends and family.
The move will happen when we're confident there is no community transmission and that the disease is contained. The Cabinet will be meeting to consider these factors and others on Monday.
When we do move to level 2, we'll have measures in place to track and stop any new transmission and stamp out any outbreaks.
Play it safe
You will have more freedom to move at alert level 2, but it's up to each one of us to keep the rest of New Zealand safe.
These are the most important things that you can do, say health officials:
• 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
Life at alert level 2
Life at alert level 2 means we can resume many of our everyday activities — but we have to do so safely.
• All businesses can open if they can do it safely. This will help to get people back to work
• We can go in-store at local businesses
• Tertiary education facilities, schools and early learning centres will be open
• We can travel between regions
• We can safely connect and socialise with close friends and family
• We can visit local restaurants, cafes and bars
• We can return to our regular recreation activities
• We can celebrate life's important moments with our loved ones such as weddings, funerals, birthdays and anniversaries
• Small religious gatherings and ceremonies can be held with public health measures in place
Controls at alert level 2
Alert level 2 is not life as normal, some restrictions and other measures remain in place to reduce the risk of transmission.
• We need to maintain physical distancing
• We will keep tight controls in place at our borders
• Our wide-scale testing will continue
• We will find and self-isolate anyone who is unwell and their close contacts
• There will be measures in place to allow some safe travel and socialising
• Only small, controlled gatherings will be permitted
• Early childhood centres, schools and tertiary organisations will see most people returning — with controls in place
• Physical distancing, hygiene standards and contact registers will make businesses safe
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At alert level 2, you can leave home to do more things, but you should follow public health measures and consider others around you.
Follow these physical distancing rules:
• Keep your distance in public from people you do not know (ideally two metres)
• One-metre physical distancing in most other environments, unless there are mitigating measures. Examples of environments where you should maintain one metre distancing include cafes, church groups, gatherings, restaurants and retail stores
• Take extra care if you interact with people you don't know as it won't be easy to do contact tracing if necessary. These situations include playgrounds, parks, shopping malls or walking along the street
There will be a few instances at alert level 2 where it won't be practical to maintain physical distancing, so there will be other measures to manage public health risks. Examples include hairdressing, physiotherapists, home help, and public transport.
Gatherings and events
You can attend gatherings of no more than 100 people, like weddings, funerals, family events, concerts, religious services and public meetings, provided public health measures (see conditions below) can be maintained.
You can have friends and family over to your home, but play it safe — keep surfaces clean, wash your hands, and keep the numbers low so you can practise safe distancing.
All gatherings outside of the home (indoors and outdoors) can have no more than 100 attendees, excluding staff like waiters. Indoor gatherings should be seated if possible, and should be approximately two hours long.
Food and drink consumption is fine at gatherings, so you can have food at wedding receptions or after a funeral or tangihanga. It should be prepared carefully and served individually, for example, not from a buffet.
Additional conditions on gatherings:
• Physical distancing and infection prevention and control requirements must be met
• All gatherings should record attendees to ensure contact tracing can be conducted if necessary
• Hospitality guidelines regarding alcohol consumption need to be strictly adhered to
• You can't participate in any gatherings or events if you have Covid-19 symptoms or if you need to be in isolation/quarantine for any reason
Many public venues, such as museums, food courts and markets will be open again at alert level 2. However, there will be restrictions in place including the requirement to keep groups of attendees one metre apart. This might require limiting the number of people inside at once. Some venues may stay shut if they can't open safely.
Exercise, sport and recreation
You can do your usual exercise, sport and recreation activities, provided you can do them safely.
This includes activities that were restricted previously, including:
• Walking, biking and hunting on public conservation land
• Swimming at a public swimming pool, but there will be restrictions
• Going to the gym, but there will be restrictions
• Boating and motorised watersports
• Hunting during duck shooting season — start date to be announced.
You can play sports that involve close contact, but only if good contact tracing is maintained for training and games. Make sure you know who you're training and playing with, in case someone gets sick. No one should train or play if they have Covid-19 symptoms.
For sports where it is possible to maintain physical distancing, such as tennis, you should try your best to keep two metres from other people.
High-level sporting events
Super Rugby and ANZ Premiership Netball professional leagues can go ahead at alert level 2 because they take place in controlled workplaces. The details for these events will be developed with Sport New Zealand and WorkSafe. Initially, they will happen without crowds but they can be broadcast.
High Performance Sport New Zealand activities can take place at alert level 2 using a controlled workplace approach in consultation with WorkSafe.
Workplaces and businesses
At alert level 2 businesses can operate if they're able to do so safely.
Engaging with customers
At alert level 2 businesses can have customers on their premises if they can meet public health requirements. This means businesses should:
• Have a contact tracing system in place to record everyone who you interact with on your premises
• Maintain physical distancing of 1 metre between groups of customers
Services can also be provided on customers' premises, for example, cleaning and home help.
This means that most businesses can open their premises to the public, including:
• Bars and cafes
• Hardware, gardening, and clothing retailers
• Butchers, bakeries, and fishmongers.
Hospitality businesses should keep groups seated, separated, and use a single server if possible.
Work involving close personal contact
For some businesses, close personal contact is required to deliver a service. This includes:
• Home help providers
These businesses can operate if they have measures like:
• A robust contact tracing system in place
• Maintain good hygiene practices
• Minimise contact to the extent possible
Specific guidance for key sectors is being developed by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment and WorkSafe.
Doing business safely
The key public health requirements stay the same at alert level 2. Businesses should maintain hygiene measures, including physical distancing, hand washing and regularly cleaning surfaces.
All businesses are encouraged to use alternative ways of working if possible. This means businesses that don't normally have customers on their premises could continue to have staff work from home.
If workers are sick with symptoms of Covid-19, they should stay home.
Golden rules for business at alert level 2
Do everything you can to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission at work — we all have a part to play in keeping each other safe.
• Covid-19 is still out there. Play it safe
• All businesses can operate if they can do so safely. Alternative ways of working are still encouraged where possible
•Talk with your workers to identify risks and ways to manage them
• Ask everyone, workers, contractors and customers, with cold or flu-like symptoms to stay away from your premises
• Keep groups of customers 1 metre apart
• Keep contact-tracing records of anyone who will have close interaction (workers, contractors or customers)
• Reduce the number of shared surfaces, and regularly disinfect them
• Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands
Travel and transport
You can travel, but make sure you do it in a safe way.
Covid-19 is a disease you can spread without knowing you have it. You can travel around the country if you follow good personal health measures. You will need to keep records of what travel services you use and keep track of who you have been in contact with. You should keep your distance from groups of people you don't know. You should minimise the number of places you stop on the way to your destination.
You must not travel to events which do not meet the requirements for gatherings at Alert Level 2.
Tips for minimising risk while travelling:
• Try to limit taking public transport, or use at off-peak times
• Avoid sitting next to someone you don't know, or standing
• If you're flying or taking other forms of transport that involve bookings, follow the physical distancing instructions from your transport operators
• You must not travel if you are displaying symptoms of Covid-19, awaiting a test, or if you need to self-isolate
Early learning services, schools and tertiary education facilities will all open at alert level 2.
On the advice of public health officials, any educational facilities connected to a confirmed or probable case of Covid-19 must close on an individual or group basis to allow contact tracing, and then potentially for a further 14 days.
Early learning services and schools
All early learning centres and schools will be physically open including years 11 to 13. Distance learning will be available for those unable to attend school, for example where people are self-isolating.
Early learning services and schools are safe environments for children, young people and staff. Additional public health control measures are in place to prevent the spread of disease and to support contact tracing.
Tertiary education facilities are open.
• Tertiary education is a safe environment for students and staff to return to at alert level 2.
• Tertiary education facilities will implement public health requirements and physical distancing as appropriate for the context, and will work closely to ensure a safe environment where students can continue their learning.
• They will need to maintain distance learning capability to help manage within these constraints, and ensure safety of staff and students at risk of Covid-19.
There is guidance for people at higher risk of Covid-19. It includes advice under the different alert levels, who is at higher risk, and how they can protect themselves.
Information for at-risk people
Self-isolation, quarantine and testing
At alert level 2, people who are probable or confirmed cases of Covid-19, or who are a close contact of a case, will have to self-isolate for 14 days, or until cleared by a doctor.
People arriving from overseas will continue to be placed in managed-isolation for 14 days, or quarantine if they are showing symptoms.
Anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 should get tested — contact your doctor or Healthline.