A step down to a strengthened Covid-19 alert level 2 from tomorrow has been described as "great" for one Rotorua business and "bittersweet" for another.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today regions outside of Auckland would move from level 3 to 2 from 11.59pm on Tuesday.
"It doesn't mean we are out of the woods. Level 2 will be different. This is Delta level 2," she said.
New rules have been introduced including mandatory face coverings at all indoor venues. There will be exceptions for customers - but not staff - in hospitality venues for eating and drinking.
Ardern said new rules on scanning also applied at level 2: mandatory scanning at bars, restaurants, cinemas, churches, hairdressers and anywhere with close contact between people.
Outdoor venues can host up to 100 people but indoor venues are restricted to 50.
Keith and Eric Kolver, owners of Rotorua's Secret Spot, plan to reopen the cafe and bar part of the business from Wednesday but the famed hot tubs, spaced 8m apart, likely won't be ready until the weekend.
Keith said it was "great" to be able to reopen, "but we've got to do this right for the bigger gain".
"We will be working pretty damn hard to get our hot tubs up and running. But we will be mindful of keeping the place clean and really making sure people are scanning in."
He said there was "keen demand" from customers, and while that was encouraging, the business would be taking care not to breach level 2 crowd restrictions. That meant the venue's usual live music at weekends was unlikely to return anytime soon.
Auckland's continued level 4 lockdown was also expected to keep numbers down.
"It's a bit of a balancing act," Keith said.
The Good Eastern Taphouse owner Andy Allan said the news was "a bittersweet sort of feeling".
"It's good news in one sense. It's a start. We can open our doors at level 2 and start trading. However, I have a premise that can fit about 200 people. It reduces my potential revenue to about 25 per cent of what it could normally be."
Support during lockdown had been heartening, and he'd received several texts and messages from regulars keen to come back to the pub, he said.
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty manager Melissa Renwick said the announcement was "two-fold".
"It essentially gives with one hand and takes with another," she said.
"We are really pleased that more of our members can open ... but for a lot of people that cap of 50 people is not going to cover costs."
Students will return to schools from Thursday morning. Mask-wearing isn't mandatory, but director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said it was recommended, especially for students 12 and older. The same applied to universities.
John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said he believed there would have been a collective sigh throughout New Zealand's education sector at the announcement.
"I'm particularly pleased for senior students undertaking NCEA. It's a critical time of year for them and distance learning works well but it's no substitute for a physical teacher in the classroom."
Walsh said it would also be welcome news for children on the food in schools programme.
"With this lockdown, in particular, the number of kids suffering stress and anxiety, they will be really pleased to get them back to school, a safe place, and reconnect with friends."
Rotorua Anglers Association president Piet Otto was already planning a pot luck dinner for the club on Friday.
Otto said the dinner and the association's annual general meeting had been postponed due to alert levels 3 and 4. Now the dinner was being reinstated and the meeting was booked in for September 22.
The association is also bringing back its fly-tying and A-Z fishing courses which had attracted popular demand. It was keeping people updated via its website.
"We have a lot of people enrolled but haven't been able to start because of restrictions," Otto said.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said she had been impressed "with tourism and hospitality operators' acceptance of the need to play it safe, even though they've taken another big hit and are doing it tough".
"... We also look forward to being able to welcome visitors again although we continue to miss our Auckland visitors who make up the biggest chunk of our domestic market," she said.
"I've been proud of how Rotorua has coped and responded to date."
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said level 2 would "allow some important elements of 'normal' trading to recommence for many".
Rotorua MP Todd McClay also said some normality would return to life in Rotorua.
"... but there will be a lot of households and businesses in Rotorua that will find it difficult for weeks and months ahead."
McClay said there had been a lot of economic damage done over lockdown and he planned to put this to the Government to find out what additional support could be given for local businesses.
Covid-19 outbreak latest developments
• 20 new community cases, all in Auckland;
• 821 total community cases, 114 from Auckland and three from Wellington have recovered;
• Five of Sunday's 20 cases were infectious in the community;
• 4750 tests undertaken in the past 24 hours;
• No unexpected detections in wastewater tests over past 24 hours;
• 40 cases in hospital, six in either ICU or HDU;
• All developments released by Ministry of Health at 1pm yesterday.