Auckland has officially moved into alert level 3 - with dozens of cars lining up at drive-through fast-food outlets.
After a long 35 days, Auckland's team of 1.6 million is waking to the smell of roasting coffee, baked goods - and, yes, fast food takeaways. Overnight, the city moved from level 4 to level 3 with some residents queuing bright and early to get their first takeaway meals in five weeks.
About 80 cars were in line for McDonald's on Lincoln Rd in West Auckland just after 12.30am.
The line was so long it filled the carpark and was spilling on to Lincoln Rd.
One West Auckland resident arrived just after 11pm to wait for a late-night snack. They weren't alone - by 11.30pm at least five other vehicles were waiting for the drive-through to open. Half an hour later, the crowds had descended.
"We just came for a feed," she said. "The masses will be out tomorrow so we thought just come in when we can, while everyone is sleeping."
One person decided to turn around when they saw how long the line was. "This is crazy," he said.
He thought the line would be long, but didn't realise it would be as long as it was.
Meanwhile, a number of cars went to McDonald's Mt Roskill to find the store was not open. A sign taped to one of the store's windows said it would open at 6am.
'At least now there is something different on the menu'
A man who gave his name as Kemo was second in the queue at McDonald's Kelston this morning.
He'd been lined up since about 6am and 30 minutes later had got no further in his quest for McDonald's. He was holding out for fries and items from the breakfast menu and hot chocolates for his kids.
Lockdown hasn't been too bad for him as an essential worker but harder on his whānau who were stuck at home.
"At least now there is something different on the menu," he told the Herald.
McDonald's stores prepare to reopen
McDonald's says exactly when its restaurants in Auckland open will depend on how quickly each store can get everything up and running.
Some were expected to have food ready to go not long after midnight, but others would not open until between 5am and 7am today.
"Around 50 Auckland restaurants will be working to open through the night and before 7am, and will initially operate with a restricted menu," a spokesman told the Herald yesterday.
Part of the preparation was around traffic management, the spokesman said, acknowledging high levels of congestion in and around takeaway stores after the previous level 4 lockdown.
Sandringham cafe Elaichi opened its doors at midnight, with four people in line to get a hot drink and a bite to eat.
Cafe worker Mahiam Sen said the business decided to open after running a poll on its social media channels. The shop has vegetarian and vegan snacks, hot drinks and Indian snacks.
Jay Bahn decided to head out after missing his coffee for the past five weeks. "I'm just excited to get some coffee," he said.
Bhan's mother made sure that before he left home he took note of her order - a cappuccino and a few Indian snacks.
Afnan Haider and Maisam Abbas - of Glen Eden Kabab on Glendale Rd in Glen Eden - also opened to the public at midnight. They described the level 4 lockdown as extremely difficult for their small business.
KFC lovers of West Auckland might have to wait until the morning for their fix, but KFC Lincoln Rd has cones set up to help with any overflow.
Those heading to the local drive-through are asked to wear a mask.
"Level 4 has done the job we needed it to do. Level 3 is not opening up," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday. "Level 3 is still 'stamp it out'."
Ardern says Auckland can still eliminate Covid, but has stepped up calls for people to get vaccinated.
She wants 90 per cent of Auckland residents to have had at least one vaccine dose before the next alert level announcement in two weeks.
Cafes, restaurants and takeaways can open in level 3, but all purchases, pick-ups and delivery must be contactless.
Small events like weddings and tangihanga are allowed in level 3, with up to 10 people only.
Level 3 also brings some good news to keen surfers or mountain bikers. Activities such as surfing, tramping, horse-riding and mountain biking are allowed in level 3, as long as you are experienced - and local.
If you are heading to the likes of KFC, Pizza Hut, Carl's Jnr and Taco Bell, do not forget your eftpos or credit card. They will not accept cash under alert level 3.
KFC would offer a slightly reduced menu, a spokesman for Restaurant Brands said.
"Burgers will be phased in over the next couple of days. This is simply due to product delivery times," he said.
Domino's Pizza is celebrating Auckland's move to level 3 by offering customers a free lava cake with every $20-plus delivery order today.
The company's general manager, Cameron Toomey, said they wanted to celebrate and recognise the effort Aucklanders had made the last few weeks to help control the spread of Covid-19.
One punter is so eager to get their hands on fried chicken they early last night pitched a tent on the grass next to the Papakura KFC in a bid to get to the front the queue.
A video posted to TikTok shows a small blue tent a few metres from the drive-through speaker.
"People camping out waiting for KFC to open tomorrow," the woman filming the video says. "Bring on level 3!"
The hungry Aucklander's move lit up social media and many dived in to poke fun at those desperate for takeaway.
Chef Joel Singam has spent the past five weeks "thinking about how to "Covid-proof" his Malaysian restaurant.
Singam and his wife Alexandra Kumaran run Nasi Kandar Pulau Pinang in Panmure, which officially opened on August 15.
Singam said he tried to focus on the positives during the level 4 lockdown, which he said allowed him to take a breather, plan his menu and a path for the future.
"Over the five weeks, I've also been thinking about how to 'Covid-proof' the business and so will be launching also my bottled sambal chilli and sauces as part of the business," Singam said.
Meanwhile, the appeal of KFC was all too much for some earlier this week. Two gang associates were this week arrested at the southern Auckland border with a boot full of KFC trying to get back into Auckland.
Officers became suspicious of a vehicle on a gravel road and pulling a U-turn before speeding off, trying to evade police.
The vehicle eventually pulled over and police discovered it had been travelling from Hamilton trying to get into Auckland, a police spokesperson said.