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There will be winners and losers when Kiwis wake up on Thursday morning in alert level 2 - as the Prime Minister reveals the "hardest" aspect of the Government's Covid response.

Cafes, restaurants, tourism operators, sports clubs, libraries, cinemas and gyms will all be able to throw open their doors in 48 hours.

But bars which don't serve food will have to stay shut for 10 days and with gatherings limited to 10 people or fewer, tangi and funerals will still be restricted.


The Tourism Industry Association says the extra week of restrictions for bars could spell the end of some establishments while the Funeral Directors Association has slammed the rules as "both cruel and without compassion".

Ardern and her Cabinet decided yesterday that Covid-19 was sufficiently under control to move the country to alert level 2 at 11.59pm on Wednesday.

But her warnings about the need to maintain proper health and safety standards have been borne out by the situation in China and South Korea, where cases are on the rise again.

Both countries have reported fresh surges in coronavirus cases in the wake of both countries easing their lockdown measures.

"The nation is at risk," Park Won-soon, the mayor of the South Korean capital, Seoul, said on Monday, warning that the next few days will be "critical" in preventing the spread of a virus from a cluster of cases linked to several of the city's nightclubs and bars.

A total of 86 new infections have been reported so far in the new outbreak as officials race to track down thousands of others who may have come into contact with a 29-year-old man who visited the venues before testing positive for Covid-19.

Back in New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern spoke to Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking on Tuesday morning and revealed the hardest aspect of the Covid crisis was the decision-making around loved ones seeing dying relatives.

After a court case, in which a son was allowed to see his dying father, the Ministry of Health has been reviewing 32 cases where access for families was refused. So far, five refusals have been overturned.


"I would have hoped that the criteria that was set would have been applied with as much compassion as possible," Ardern told Hosking.

Health officials, she said, were doing an exceptional job in difficult circumstances and wanted to ensure there was no double tragedy. Relatives had been returning from overseas and needed to be in quarantine.

"It's been the hardest part of Covid. You're dealing with grief, death but also the highest risk groups."

Alert level 2: Retail, malls, cafes, restaurants, cinema and other public spaces can reopen this Thursday. Schools will reopen on May 18 and bars on May 21.

Ardern also told Hosking that an email written by one of her staff members and leaked to media had used language that she would not have used.

The email, sent last Friday, said Ministers should not front up to media or answer questions directly about the huge release and details contained in hundreds of official Covid documents.

The email has been cirticised by several political commentators as cynical and arrogant.


"I would not have used the language in that email. A staff member wrote the email. Never saw it. Never signed it off."

Meanwhile, students and children can go back to school next Monday, and bars which don't serve food can open on Thursday next week, as long as they can seat and distance patrons.

Domestic travel will also be back on again soon, providing a lifeline to the tourism industry that has already seen the loss of thousands of jobs.

There were just three new cases yesterday - one was a returned overseas traveller and two were Waitakere Hospital nurses who treated cases from the St Margaret's rest home in Auckland.

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The nurses were asymptomatic and their infections were caught in the staff screening process before they returned to work after being identified as a contact of a confirmed case.


Ardern, as she's previously signalled, said aspects of level 2 would be phased in to ensure life in level 3 hadn't led to any undetected outbreaks "and feel more secure" in the move. Bars had been deemed "too risky" to open this week.

Life will be a lot more normal on Thursday morning when New Zealand moves to alert level 2. Photo / Alex Burton
Life will be a lot more normal on Thursday morning when New Zealand moves to alert level 2. Photo / Alex Burton

Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said outbreaks could trigger a return to level 3 but regional measures might be put in place to ring-fence an outbreak.

The move to level 2 also comes with big responsibilities for Kiwis to take control into their own clean hands. The golden rules of level 2 are:

• Anyone with so much as a sniffle has to stay home. Don't go to work or school. Don't socialise. This should be a really low bar.

• Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Do it properly.

• Keeping your distance from strangers in public, especially on public transport.


• Don't socialise with more than 10 people at once.

• Keep track of where you've been and who you've seen.

"Overall though, the upshot is that in 10 days' time we will have reopened most businesses in New Zealand, and sooner than many other countries around the world."

But it would be a new normal, Ardern said.

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For those itching to get to a cafe or restaurant, there'll be a two-hour limit on seatings but that rule will be flexible if needed.

Every gathering, whether at home or in public, will be limited to 10 people or less for at least two weeks so if something goes wrong, it's easy to contact trace, said Ardern.


"So go and see your mum – just don't turn it into a massive family reunion while you're at it," said Ardern.

And that would mean further sacrifices for people who'd lost loved ones during lockdown and alert level 3. Their suffering was a "hard consideration" but the 10 people limit was a balanced decision on health advice, Ardern said.

"This, alongside social distancing, is our insurance policy."

Funeral Directors Association President Gary Taylor said the limits on gatherings meant another two weeks before grieving families could have a meaningful service.

Taylor said they'd been led to believe level 2 would allow for gatherings for up to 100 people, as the Government had previously signalled, and had worked on how to manage funerals and tangi safely.

"This is a cruel and heartless blow to the thousands of New Zealand families who have lost loved ones and is unjustifiable."


But for most of New Zealand, the move to level 2 will be a welcome return to a new normal with most sectors supporting the move.

Monique Jarvis, co-owner of clothes store Dalston in Auckland's Grey Lynn, said being able to finally reopen was "very exciting".

Monique Jarvis at clothing boutique Dalston in Grey Lynn, is very excited about finally reopening. Photo / Michael Craig
Monique Jarvis at clothing boutique Dalston in Grey Lynn, is very excited about finally reopening. Photo / Michael Craig

The store will have a few new procedures in place, like a one-in-one-out policy and a register at their door, and Jarvis said they'd been consulting with other stores to make sure they could operate safely for both their customers and staff.

"We're really eager to get back to business and we're excited to get going with the new norm and see how people feel about finally coming out and shopping."

Opposition leader Simon Bridges welcomed the move to level 2 and said it was something the National Party had been calling for.

"I think the focus now turns to saving jobs and getting people back to work," said National Party leader Simon Bridges.

"New Zealand is ready to get back into a form of normality, and from Government to Opposition, Parliament's attention now really has to turn to how we can save jobs and get New Zealand working again."


Act leader David Seymour said alert level 2 should have happened sooner and yesterday's decision will be particularly hard on bars.

"The wider uncertainty about rules for all kinds of businesses means they may be open, but not profitably."

The Tourism Industry Association also said the decision to keep bars shut for a week longer than restaurants could spell the demise of some establishments.

The association's chief executive, Chris Roberts, said many tourism, hospitality and event businesses were teetering on the edge, especially in light of SkyCity announcing yesterday it would axe another 700 jobs on top of the 200 it cut last month.

"In the current circumstances, even a week or two's delay will push some over the cliff, and result in further job losses and business closures," Roberts said.