With zero active cases of Covid-19 New Zealand has made the long-awaited move into alert level 1, 75 days after first entering the alert level system. This means more opportunities for businesses to get back on their feet and a return to mostly normal lives. David Beck gets reaction from different areas of the community.
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New Zealand wakes up in alert level 1 today and with it comes public confidence to get back to normality, the ability to farewell loved ones without restriction and "a lot of unknowns".
Rotorua businesses are welcoming yesterday's announcement by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that New Zealand would move from Covid-19 alert level 2 to alert level 1 from midnight. The Cabinet's decision means events such as funerals, hospitality and public transport can all resume without any restrictions from today.
Osborne Funeral Home director Richard Fullard, who is also a wedding celebrant, said the easing of restrictions on gatherings would be welcome news to families who had lost loved ones as well as newly-weds-to-be.
"The ability for our families to get back to some kind of normality in celebrating the lives of loved ones is great. They've struggled but they've come together over the last few months, but the ability to open our doors to everybody and not have families pick and choose who can and can't come, that will be great.
"It's been devastating for all of our families, all the way through. From no funerals, to having to choose 10 people, to then limiting the space to 100. The ability for all of those parts of the community to celebrate together - funerals or weddings, whatever it may be - is super important," he said.
On the same day of the level 1 announcement, it was revealed that Good Vibes 2020 was confirmed to go ahead on the original dates. L.A.B, Katchafire, Sons Of Zion, Ardijah, Three Houses Down and General Fiyah, Victor J Sefo and Che Fu will perform at Rotorua's Village Green on July 18 as part of the winter festival.
Rotorua's Croucher Brewing Company and Brew Craft Beer Pub co-owner Paul Croucher said, while the return to business in level 2 was welcome, the business had not been able to operate at full capacity.
"The biggest problem with level 2, compared to 1, is there are a lot of peaks and troughs and at level 2 we can't take advantage of those peaks. Over Queen's Birthday Weekend, in order to comply and keep everybody safe, we had to turn away a lot of customers," he said.
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"There are still a lot of unknowns, we still have no idea what the market is going to look like, especially heading into winter. Obviously, we would feel pretty excited if Australia was fit and healthy enough to join us in a transtasman bubble, that's an important market for Rotorua.
"That said, I wouldn't want the Government to be premature in doing that. I do trust that they're doing their very best."
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said he expected the move to level 1 to have a lot of positives.
"The difference is obviously going to be around public spacing and public gatherings. There's a lot of hospitality-type businesses who are still slowed down through the spacing requirements and can't fit enough people in. Ones I've spoken to have mostly said they are operating at 70-80 per cent of their capacity [in level 2].
"A lot are saying they think they can survive but they are worried about winter and a possible further dip to come."
Heard said, with no active cases of Covid-19 left, the public would have to confidence to get back to normality and further supporting local businesses.
"Enabling people to get back to normal in those public spaces will make a big difference, it will help sport, it will help events, it will help hospitality-type businesses."
Motion Entertainment chairman Adam Baird said the support the entertainment mall had received duing level 2 had been "unbelievable" and he was looking forward to restrictions easing further in level 1.
"The thing we're most excited about is our customers will feel like we're back to normal. We can reduce our heavy compliance around extra signage, extra tape and barriers physical distancing people.
"Observing customers during the last few weeks, everyone is ready for it to go away but was respectful that it hadn't gone away yet. I feel like the customers will be really excited to come back to a safe and still clean, but not so in your face environment."
A police media spokesman said Rotorua Police would continue to work alongside all government agencies and other partners to best support the community and to help ensure the progress made was not lost.
"Our focus remains on maintaining public safety, security and order. We will continue to be highly visible in our communities and on our roads," the spokesman said.
Ardern said when she was told the country no longer had any active Covid-19 cases, she "did a little dance" in front of her daughter, Neve.
"I showed Neve, she was caught a little by surprise but she joined in, having absolutely no idea why I was dancing around the lounge but enjoying it nonetheless."
At level 1, she said, recovery would continue.
"We will almost certainly see cases here again. That is not a sign we have failed."
Moving to alert level 1 would be especially good news for the hospitality and transport sectors, said Ardern.
"Now we'll safely be able to fill those planes, fill those buses and cafes will be able to get a few more tables in as well."
Hard Fought Freedom
Yesterday, the Ministry of Health announced in a media statement that there were no active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand.
It was 17 days since the last new case was reported in New Zealand. Our total number of confirmed cases remains at 1154. The combined total of confirmed and probable cases remains at 1504.
The final case, an Auckland woman in her 50s associated with the St Margaret's rest home in Auckland, has now recovered from the virus.
Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the woman's recovery was "really good news" for her and something "the rest of New Zealand can take heart in".
"Having no active cases for the first time since February 28 is certainly a significant mark in our journey but, as we've previously said, ongoing vigilance against Covid-19 will continue to be essential."
On Sunday, 800 tests were processed, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 294,848. The ministry said lower testing volumes were regularly observed over weekends.
And 5000 more people have downloaded the NZ Covid Tracer app, bringing the total number of 522,000 registrations. Meanwhile, 37,504 businesses have created posters with QR codes and people have scanned into businesses 734,415 times.