National leader Simon Bridges says the Government's announcement that the country would be moving to level 2 on Thursday is "welcome news".

And with the pandemic now largely under control, he urged the Government to now focus on economic recovery.

"We need to focus on the other wave coming on us: having dealt with the Covid-19 wave, we now have got to be thinking about the real suffering that comes from 1000 people a day going on the dole and growing," he said.

"We've flattened the curve, we've got to make sure we don't flatten the economy in the process and we get it and jobs up and running."


As the country faced a looming, deep recession, Bridges said he wanted to ensure that the economic hole gouged out by the pandemic wasn't deeper than necessary.

"We've got some banks and economists saying this could be $100 billion in debt - that takes it to over 50 per cent of GDP and we want to make sure that while there's investment going into jobs, there's not a bunch of other low-priority, untargeted things.

"Because ultimately if there is, that's $50,000 a household that has to be paid back at $100 billion, that's inevitably more taxes and that's a legacy of debt on our children and grandchildren."

Despite hospitality businesses getting the green light to reopen - with restrictions - from Thursday, Bridges acknowledged that many won't make it through the next month.

"Whether it's retail or hospitality, from restaurants and cafes through to bars, the costs have risen with the rules and requirements and in fact their revenue may be down, so it is tough for them."

National suspended its political campaign to focus on the fight against the coronavirus, but Bridges said he expected this to pick up again as life returns to normal.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced malls, cafes and restaurants will reopen from Thursday and schools resume next Monday but bars must wait 10 days as the country moves to alert level 2 in 48 hours.

On Thursday, retail stores, malls, cafes, restaurants, cinema and other public spaces can reopen. All require physical distancing. Health services will also restart.


The deadline was 11.59pm on Wednesday, meaning effectively alert level 2 started on Thursday, Ardern said.

She did not think level 2 would "necessarily" be in place for longer than level 3, but it depended on factors such as the number of new Covid-19 cases.

Border restrictions would remain for a long time, as would the expectation of the public observing hand hygiene practices.

"If we slacken up, we might move in the wrong direction," Ardern said.

Friends and family can also be reunited from Thursday. Sports teams can play but the social gathering afterwards should have no more than 10 people.

"This is a transition out of our bubbles," Ardern said.


From Monday May 18 all schools and ECE centres will open.

Asked about schools, Ardern said parents should feel assured that they will be in safe environments.

However, bars will have to wait 10 days - until Thursday May 21 - before being able to open.