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For the first time in nearly two months thousands of New Zealanders are swapping their slippers for shoes today as we enter our first full week of level 2.

And with the mass return of Kiwis to offices and schools, the Prime Minister has confirmed the number of people allowed to attend church gatherings could also increase in the next two weeks.

New Zealand is again the focus of headlines across the globe, with the Washington Post reporting how the country "quashed Covid in 49 days".

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Motorways were free-flowing in Auckland this morning, despite transport officials earlier warning of delays as more buses were put on to allow for distancing.

Many businesses remained shut despite alert level 2 coming into place on Thursday so they could allow themselves time to work through issues like hotdesking, hygiene and physical distancing.

An estimated 800,000 children are due back at school today. Photo / Dean Purcell
An estimated 800,000 children are due back at school today. Photo / Dean Purcell

Hundreds of thousands of children will also trade home learning and virtual Zoom meetings for the classroom today as schools around the country throw open their doors.

Sport is also slowly resuming - Super Rugby players today report to training, albeit a bit slower and possibly heavier than they were.

The Washington Post reported on New Zealand's remarkable fightback against Covid in less than two months - and how Cabinet made the call to move to level 2 last Monday.

"[Jacinda] Ardern favored a middle option of a staggered reopening, according to political insiders," The Post reported. "Although some prominent epidemiologists had urged another week of restrictions, New Zealanders, who had almost universally abided by the rules, were getting antsy. And then there was the economy."

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters told The Post: "The problem with the staggered response was the potential for the message to be very confused, so simplicity and common-sense language was required. In that context, any staggering needed to be seriously limited."

The Post described the backdown on funeral rules as a "rare hiccup for a government that has been hailed around the world for its response to the pandemic, a response that could be described as data-driven and radically transparent".

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The Post quotes former Air NZ chief executive and the government's business liasion head, Rob Fyfe as saying: "The best thing we could do was to lock our country down and get on top of the virus before it got on top of us.

"In other countries, like the US, people assume that the best outcome for the economy is to get it going again. But if states have to lock down again, they will get a far worse economic outcome than if they'd shut down quickly and completely."

As Kiwis headed back to work and school today, Jacinda Ardern joined Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB.

PM Jacinda Ardern speaks to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking as Kiwis head back to the office and schools after months in lockdown. Audio / Newstalk ZB

Regarding the 10-person capacity for church congregations, she hoped the Government could move on the number of people that could gather together. "Those numbers will move in level 2... that will include church services."

The director general of health would be reviewing the number of people who could gather after two weeks in level 2.

But she maintained people gathering together who knew each other well - such as at churches or family reunions - could not currently be done in large groups because it was too risky.

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Many leaders, including Destiny Church's Brian Tamaki, have expressed their frustration at the 10-person limit, saying churches could easily comply with social distancing rules.

Destiny Church holds it's first service since lockdown but no laws are going to be broken, the church says.

Meanwhile, Ardern told Hosking New Zealand had been very quick to move to support businesses and their employees; long term one of the most important things the Government could do was upskill the workforce.

"Every country will find itself needing to develop its economic recovery."

Asked about a possible Transtasman bubble, she said both she and Scott Morrison agreed that it would only work if everyone arriving from outside that bubble was quarantined. Only the transtasman border would not need a quarantine.

"The point is ultimately to allow New Zealanders and Australians to move freely between both countries...imagine if we're the only place you can go that doesn't require some kind of quarantine on return."

On China and its recent anger about New Zealand wanting Taiwan to have a place at the World Health Organisation, she said: "China is an incredibly important trading partner for us."

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New Zealand had consistently maintained its One China policy since 1972 and that had not changed.

But in the wake of Covid-19 it was important to get perspectives from "places" all around the world, including Taiwan.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian issues stern rebuke to Foreign Minister Winston Peters after he spoke out in support of Taiwan. Video / AP

on Auckland's water shortage, Hosking asked if the PM could intervene on speeding up the Resource Management Act process so Watercare could take more water from the Waikato River.

She said Watercare had plans that it was working on right now to get more water.

She was receiving a report from David Parker on water issues today but said ultimately the solution for Auckland was finding alternative sources of water.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's only confirmed case of Covid-19 yesterday is a preschool-aged child from Canterbury linked to Christchurch's Rosewood rest home cluster as a household contact of an earlier case.

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Information released on the Ministry's website shows the person is a boy aged between 1 and 4.

It brought the new total to 1499 with 96 per cent of those cases now recovered. There were no additional deaths.

On Saturday, 4211 tests were completed bringing the total number of tests conducted to 228,148 meaning 4.6 per cent of New Zealand's population has now been tested.

In Auckland - due to physical distancing requirements - passengers on trains, buses and ferries will have allocated seats, limiting seated capacity to around 43 per cent, Auckland Transport (AT) says.

Auckland Transport shares what to expect when traveling at Alert Level 2. Video / AT

Mayor Phil Goff said the challenge was to get businesses up and running but not to have everyone travelling at the same time.

"I encourage businesses to look at how they can be flexible to reduce the load at peak times. This might mean staggering start and finish times and providing options for employees to travel off peak if possible.

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"We should also encourage the option of people spending part of their work week working from home where they can do so productively."

READ MORE:
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Ardern echoed Goff's calls saying safe physical distancing on our buses, trains and ferries meant we can't all turn up at the same time.

The reopening of schools would put additional pressure on Auckland's bus capacity, AT warned, with some urban buses being redeployed to help with school runs.

To help combat the motorway chaos, some tourist coaches and sight-seeing buses, which were empty due to the nation's border closure, would be added to both school and public bus services.

"We are hoping to bring in around 50 extra buses which is an increase of about 4 per cent," AT spokesman Mark Hannan said.

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He was also advising parents to wait with their young children to make sure they got a seat on the bus.

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"We can't guarantee there will be capacity for all students. If all available seats on the bus are taken then the bus will not be able to accept any more passengers.

"We apologise if a school bus can't take all students who want to use it."

AT also planned to have support staff at key bus stops and train stations this morning to manage safe loading and physical distancing on platforms.

The Ministry of Health said it was a good time to start a daily wellbeing routine.

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said it was great to see signs of life in the Auckland CBD, with scores of people returning to the city since level 2 restrictions came into force last Thursday.

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Today was likely to breath fresh life into the city.

"Certainly, we are expecting to see a lot more businesses opening up including cafes and shops, which is great.

"It won't be quite back to normal as I imagine lots of people will still be working from home and remaining flexibly but there will be a lot more life in the city."

As New Zealanders head into the first weekend of Level 2, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield shares what we all have to do. Video / Supplied

Meanwhile, The Washington Post said New Zealand would still be looking abroad, particularly at countries which had seen spikes after coming out of lockdowns.

Fyfe told The Post: "Just look at the flare-ups in Singapore and South Korea, and even Germany is having issues. This is going to be a really challenging time. How quickly and how precisely we can respond to any flare-ups here is going to be critical."