The Government is already being lobbied to widen its new mandatory face masks on public transport rules to the entire country, rather than just Auckland.
Cabinet yesterday agreed that from Thursday, people in Auckland will be required to wear face masks on public transport and during domestic travel.
The new rules are "another line of defence" when it comes to the country's Covid-19 response plan, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters yesterday.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said "now is the right time to make mask use mandatory in these situations".
"[The rules are] a low-cost and practical option and presents a minor inconvenience by comparison."
Ardern also revealed that the Government is looking into extending the public transport mask mandate to the entire country.
There is, as yet, no timeline and Ardern said officials will be keeping a close eye on the uptake of the new rules in Auckland.
But the Wellington Chamber of Commerce called on the Government to immediately extend the new rules around the country.
"We need to do the simple things now to ensure any spread of Covid-19 is kept to an absolute minimum," chief executive John Milford said.
"Our business community cannot afford another lockdown. It is the small things individuals can do to keep businesses able to open and operate."
Otago University Professor Michael Baker said he was pleased with Cabinet's decision but mass-masking on public transport needed to be nationwide.
"There are MIQ facilities in multiple centres and thousands of people going through them. We've had breaches in Auckland and Christchurch. We have to plan for the fact these will keep happening."
He said it was just a sensible reflection of the fact that New Zealand is "absolutely not in the clear with this pandemic".
He added that high school students should also wear masks on buses as they were good transmitters of the virus, as the August cluster showed.
"I think it's a mistake not to cover them."
Yesterday's announcement does not mean New Zealand, or any region of the country, is changing alert levels.
Rather, the mandatory mask usage will be included in the level 1 alert level settings.
Previously, the mandatory use of masks on public transport was reserved for level 2 and above.
The rules can be enforced by police, according to Hipkins, but the focus would be to "educate and encourage".
By law, people can be punished if they don't follow the new rules but Hipkins said this would be a "last resort".
The punishment will be included when the orders are drafted.
Both Ardern and Hipkins were at pains to point out that it will not be up to bus drivers to enforce the rules.
"We're not expecting bus drivers to stop the bus and enforce these measures," Hipkins said.
Although the rules do not apply to people in Ubers or taxis – the drivers are required to wear a mask.
Children and young people travelling to and from school are exempt from face-covering requirements on school buses and other school transport.
Although mandatory masks on public transport are not yet at a country-wide level, Hipkins is still encouraged people to wear masks.
"We are asking every New Zealander to continue to play their part," he said.
Over the past few days – since Auckland had a Covid-19 community scare – the level of compliance has been relatively high, Hipkins said.
The new public health order, mandating the new mask rules, will come into force at 11.59pm on Wednesday, November 18.
"It's [a mask] also a good visual reminder that while New Zealand remains relatively free of restrictions, we're not out of the woods yet. We're at level 1, not level zero."
Auckland mayor Phil Goff encouraged everyone to mask up on public transport.
"Widespread wearing of masks is one way that we can reduce the chances of further community transmission of Covid-19 and avoid having to go back into lockdown," he said.