Ground rules for Alert Level 3

Travel is still restricted at Alert Level 3. Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

Can I go visit my family? Can I travel out of the region? Am I able to go to my favourite restaurant? What am I able to do at Level 3?

These are all questions some people may be asking themselves today with New Zealand, apart from Auckland and Northland, now at Alert Level 3.

Most of the country shifted down alert levels at 11.59pm on Tuesday, August 31. Pending wastewater testing this week, Northland is expected to shift from Level 4 to 3 on Thursday, while Auckland will remain at Level 4 for another two weeks.

But the big question on people's minds is how Level 3 different from Level 4? The answer: not much.

While we are now able to travel within our cities, we are still not allowed to travel outside of our region unless it is for essential reasons.

Mask wearing is also mandatory if going to the shop or if you are out walking and pass other people.

See below for more of what you can and can't do at Alert Level 3:

What we all need to do at Alert Level 3 to stay safe

We need your support to protect New Zealand and eliminate COVID-19.

  •   •  Everyone should work from home if they can. Children and young people should learn from home. You legally must stay within your household bubble whenever you are not at work or school. 

  •   •  Keep your bubble as small as possible. If you need to, you can expand it to bring in close family, isolated people or caregivers.

  •   •  Even if you have been vaccinated, you still need to follow the rules to keep everyone safe. 

Wear a face covering

We encourage you to wear a face covering when leaving your home, especially if it is hard to keep 2 metres physical distance from others.

At Alert Level 3, you legally must wear a face covering: 

  •   •  on public transport and at departure points — for example, airports, train stations and bus stops

  •   •  on flights

  •   •  in taxi or ride-share vehicles — drivers and passengers

  •   •  when visiting healthcare facilities

  •   •  if you are a delivery driver to residential addresses

  •   •  inside any Alert Level 3 businesses and services that are open and involve customer contact — for example, supermarkets, pharmacies, hospitality venues, takeaways and petrol stations

  •   •  in the public areas of courts and tribunals, local and central government agencies, and social service providers with customer service counters.

Face covering advice and requirements

Keep track of where you have been

Mandatory record keeping comes into effect from 11.59 pm on 7 September 2021.

Everyone aged 12 and over legally must keep a record of where they have been when visiting certain places so contact tracing can happen quickly. You must do this at all Alert Levels.

Keep track of where you have been at all Alert Levels

Use the NZ COVID Tracer app if you can. This helps with rapid contact tracing if it is required.

At all Alert Levels, businesses and workplaces legally must display an NZ COVID Tracer QR code for each location.

Get your NZ COVID Tracer QR code poster

Maintain good hygiene

It is important that you use basic hygiene measures, including washing your hands, coughing or sneezing into your elbow and cleaning surfaces.

How to practise good hygiene and stay healthy

If you are unwell

If you have cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms, call:

  •   •  Healthline for free on 0800 358 5453

  •   •  your doctor or nurse, or

  •   •  your iwi health provider.

A health professional will let you know the next steps and if you should get a test.

COVID-19 symptoms

Travel and transport

At Alert Level 3, travel is restricted and only allowed for permitted movement in your local area — for example, going to work or school if you need to, shopping or getting exercise.

Permitted movement within an Alert Level 3 area

Public transport, air travel, taxis, and ride-sharing services

You can use public transport, taxis and ride-share services for transport for essential personal movement.
Air travel is strictly limited at Alert Level 3.

Travelling on public transport at Alert Level 3

Private vehicles and active transport

You can travel in a private vehicle only for the following reasons:

  •   •  accessing local services and businesses

  •   •  going to work or school, but only if you cannot work or learn from home

  •   •  low-risk exercise in your local area

  •   •  visiting people in your bubble

  •   •  travelling to permitted gatherings (weddings and civil union ceremonies, funerals and tangihanga). 

You can use active transport like walking and biking if you keep a 2 metre distance from anyone not in your household bubble.

Travelling in private vehicles at Alert Level 3

Travelling over Alert Level boundaries

Anyone wanting to travel across an Alert Level boundary needs to check whether they are eligible to travel.

International air travel

Visitors and tourists can still use international air services to travel home but commercial flights have been impacted.

International travel and transit

If you are unwell or at risk

You should not travel if you:

  •   •  have been requested to self-isolate

  •   •  have symptoms of COVID-19

  •   •  are awaiting a COVID-19 test result.

If you are unwell or at risk, you should not leave your home at all.

If you are unwell and you need to travel, you should use private transport if possible. If private transport is not available, call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice.

Work and business

At Alert Level 3, there are restrictions to keep workers safe, limit interaction with customers and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Everyone should work from home if they can. Businesses that require close physical contact cannot open. 

All other businesses can operate, but with restrictions. This includes physical distancing, having extra hygiene measures and contactless options for ordering, pick-up, delivery and payment.

Travelling in or out of an Alert Level 3 area for business

Business travel across an Alert Level boundary is only allowed for permitted reasons. If your employees need to cross the Alert Level boundary, they will need evidence that their travel is permitted.

Business travel at Alert Level 3

Food, shopping and services

At Alert Level 3, only the following businesses and services can have customers on their premises:

  •   •  supermarkets

  •   •  dairies

  •   •  butchers

  •   •  fishmongers

  •   •  greengrocers

  •   •  food banks

  •   •  petrol stations

  •   •  self-service laundries

  •   •  banks and financial institutions

  •   •  hardware stores — for trade customers only

  •   •  health services

  •   •  pharmacies

  •   •  accommodation services

  •   •  courts and tribunals

  •   •  social and community-based services to maintain critical wellbeing or crisis support

  •   •  emergency services

  •   •  Parliamentary services

  •   •  passenger services, including public transport by road, rail, air or sea

  •   •  school hostels.

All other retail stores can only open for contactless pick-up and delivery. 

Shopping and services at Alert Level 3

We all need food and essential items such as medicine through Alert Level changes, so please do not try to go without.

Learn more about accessing food and essential items

Meeting friends and whānau

At Alert Level 3, you legally must stay within your household bubble whenever you are not at work or school.

Keep your bubble as small as possible. If you need to, you can expand it to bring in close family, isolated people or caregivers.

You cannot invite friends, whānau and extended family who are not in your bubble to your home.

Meeting friends and whānau at Alert Level 3

Events and entertainment

The only gatherings allowed at Alert Level 3 are weddings and civil union ceremonies, funerals and tangihanga, with up to 10 people. No food or drinks can be served, and physical distancing, face coverings and record keeping are required.

All entertainment venues, public facilities and attractions such as museums, cinemas, libraries and swimming pools must close.

Public events and entertainment at Alert Level 3

Cafes, bars, restaurants and night clubs

Cafes, restaurants and takeaways can open at Alert Level 3, but only for contactless pick-up, delivery or drive through. You cannot go in to dine.

Cafes, bars, restaurants and night clubs at Alert Level 3

Funerals and tangihanga

At Alert Level 3, you can hold a funeral, tangihanga or burial, but these are limited to 10 people. The 10 person limit includes kaikaranga, kaikōrero, members of the clergy or staff who are attending.

Funerals and tangihanga at Alert Level 3


At Alert Level 3, tamariki (children) and young people should learn from home.

Early learning centres can open to provide childcare for children whose parents need to go into work. Play centres and playgroups must close.

Schools and kura will be open for children in Years 1 to 10 whose parents or carers need to go to work and have no available options for childcare. All young people in Years 11, 12 and 13 should learn from home.

We encourage you to keep your children at home if you have other caregiving options.

Education at Alert Level 3

Shared custody and childcare

At Alert Level 3, tamariki (children) can travel between their parents' or caregivers' homes under a shared custody arrangement. Only travel if you need to.

Do not travel if you or your child are unwell.

Shared custody and childcare at Alert Level 3

Personal travel to cross an Alert Level 3 and 4 boundary

Sport, exercise and recreation

At Alert Level 3, you can exercise in your local area on your own, or with people in your household bubble.

The most important thing is to stay safe and stay close to home. Go to your local park or beach, not your favourite one. Do low-risk activities so you do not need rescuing or medical care.

Sport and recreation at Alert Level 3

Healthcare and emergencies


Healthcare services will open and operate normally, where possible.

Healthcare businesses, such as pharmacies, can open.

Hospitals will be open for emergency care. Some non-urgent services or treatment may be rescheduled.

Healthcare at Alert Level 3

COVID-19 vaccinations

The COVID-19 vaccination programme will continue at Alert Level 3.

COVID-19 vaccines


If there is another emergency while we are at Alert Level 3, you should do what you would normally do.

Emergencies at all Alert Levels

Family, whānau and sexual violence

Family, whānau and sexual violence can escalate at this time.

If you are not safe, you can leave your bubble. Family violence and sexual violence support lines are open for people to call, email or text. If someone is in danger, call 111.

Help and support is available if you are experiencing violence

Financial support

If you are having trouble with money, there may be support for you.

Financial support information

Find services and contact information for when you need help.

If you feel you are not coping, or you have concerns for others, it is important to talk with a health professional. There are helplines available if you need help.

You can also find support, advice and information about COVID-19, or you can contact us directly for help with your enquiries.

Contact and support

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