COVID-19 Alert Level 2: What you need to know

Businesses will be able to reopen their shop fronts on Thursday.

Battles. Wars. Fighting talk. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has outlined what the next front looks like when we move to Alert Level 2.

The guiding principle remains to "play it safe". Remember, we aren't there yet.

Here's the basics, updated with detail from Monday's announcement about when the move will take place.

When do we move to level 2? 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday New Zealand would move from alert level 3 to level 2 at 11.59pm on Wednesday night, meaning retailers and public spaces would be largely able to reopen from Thursday, May 14. 

She revealed there would be a staggered approach to the loosening of restrictions, with schools reopening from the following Monday, May 18. 

When it comes to having a tipple at your local, however, Cabinet was not having a bar of it - at least, not yet.

Jacinda says bars would have to wait until the following Thursday, May 21, before reopening. She says this is because bars posed the biggest risk.

Bars and other eateries would be distinguished by the guidelines of the Easter Holiday Act legislation.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi further clarified the rules:

  •   •  Patrons must be seated

  •   •  Patrons must be served a meal, not just drinks

  •   •  Serving staff must stick to serving specific tables

  •   •  Establishments must ensure no more than 10 people per booking

  •   •  Establishments cannot accommodate more than 100 people

  •   •  Establishments must ensure safe spacing between seated groups

The rule of 10

You won't be raging it up with hundreds of your best mates anytime soon. Indoor and outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10.

It applies to parties of all sorts, weddings, funerals and tangi, church meetings, and group bookings at restaurants or bars.

It is the same for churches and other venues. Social distancing rules must be followed too.

What remains unchanged?

The basic public health measures. If you are even slightly sick, stay at home. If you have any symptoms - a runny nose or sore throat - stay at home and get a test. Wash those hands and clean surfaces regularly. Don't share your phone.

The border remains closed to all except Kiwis returning home. On arrival, they will spend 14 days in an isolation facility.

Keep your distance. Two metres remains the gold-standard for strangers but in your workplace or with people you know the prime minister says we can "live with less" because tracing can be done if needed.

Can I throw the doors open to my workplace?

Generally speaking, yes. Businesses can re-start for staff and customers but it's slightly different strokes for different folks. The Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment will be providing more advice in the coming days but here are some starters for 10s:

  •   •  If you can work from home it's something to talk to your boss about. The PM was encouraging it where possible.

  •   •  All businesses must observe the appropriate hygiene and distancing rules.

  •   •  Retail outlets need to follow the example already set by supermarkets, with physical distancing and regular cleaning.

  •   •  Hair-dressers and beauticians need to wear PPE.

  •   •  Bars, cafes and restaurants, stick with me here as this is quite a lot, must work under the three Ss: People must be seated. You can only have as many people as you can safely seat. No one can have more than 100 - regardless of venue size. People must be separated - physical distance is a must. This and the seating makes it easier to trace people. Tables must have a dedicated server. So seat, separate, serve.

  •   •  Contact tracing is also key. While the government is working on a nationwide technical fix for now businesses should be able to detail who has visited.

  •   •  If there are queues outside venues these must also be managed with the suitable social distancing.

  •   •  Those who don't follow the rules will be shut down.

Again, we will learn more from MBIE in the coming days.

Can we see some of our family and friends though?

Your bubble can grow. But hang on to the same principles mentioned above in reference to hospitality and the basic social distancing and health measures.

You can have friends and family to your home but keep the numbers small. More specific guidance is still coming.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said while he may hug a few close family members he wouldn't be going beyond that - stick to the East Coast wave.

Can I take a holiday elsewhere in NZ?

A trip from Wellington to Napier to see your mum is fine. A trip to Napier for a conference with an open bar is not. So, you can gad about the place a bit more. However, keep to the social distancing rules. It's key.

What about getting back to the gym and pool?

They, and other public facilities like playgrounds, will re-open as long as the right rules are followed (more to come here).

Professional sport can resume - rugby and netball will be doing so - but given the rules about mass gatherings it won't be with crowds. In some cases, you won't notice the difference from before!

Lower level sport is back on the cards but we can expect more information on that later.

Can I send my child back to school?

All education facilities, including early learning, will re-open. These will liaise directly with parents. Distance learning will remain in place too.

If an education facility has a confirmed case it will close for 72 hours to allow for tracing and then, potentially, another 14 days.

When a decision about level 2 is made, schools won't open mid-week but at the start of the following week.

Again, sick children should be kept at home and regular basic healthcare steps taken.

What happens to the more vulnerable groups?

Those in higher risk groups need to think about their own personal safety when outside and continue to apply social distancing and basic healthcare steps.

  •   •  If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP

-RNZ/Greg Scanlon.

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