16 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces details for alert level 3

4:58 pm on 16 April 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced what life and business activity might look like under alert level 3.

Watch the PM giving the details here:

In a media conference this afternoon, Ardern said principles of alert level 3 is to restrict contact with others as much as possible.

She said defining the different alert levels today was not an indication of the decision that will be made on Monday.

"Level 3 is a progression, not a rush to normality. It carries forward many of the restrictions in place at level 4, including the requirement to mainly be at home in your bubble and to limit contact with others."

"Protecting the health of New Zealanders is our primary focus but we also need to position the economy for recovery."

Ardern announced that malls and retail stores would stay closed but that drive-throughs and online shopping would open.

She also said people would be able to swim, surf and fish from the shore but advised that people did not take up new activities that they had never done before.

Boating and jet-skiing still won't be allowed.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said alert level 3 would require more personal accountability and vigilance to ensure we keep stamping out the virus.

He said while we were past the peak in level 4, we were not out of the woods.

"We will still not be out of the woods in level 3 and if anything, we need to be even more vigilant because everybody will have potentially more contact with others.

"So it's actually a lower level in terms of the alert level, but increased vigilance by everybody," Bloomfield said.

Other alert level 3 details:

Minor extensions to bubbles

Sticking to existing bubbles is recommended but some expansion is allowed if, for example, you have a caregiver that you need, children in shared care, a defacto partner who is caring for others, or you're a single person who wants the company of a sibling for example. Keep it exclusive and keep it small.

Dr Bloomfield said people should use their judgement about whether to expand their bubble to include people over 70 under alert level 3.

"We do know that that group is at risk. But we also know that that is a group that is at risk from loneliness and these are things that are very important so we will look to people to really apply their judgement here," he said.

Bloomfield said it could be done in a way that kept elderly people safe - such as good hygiene, and physical distancing.

He said if people had children, it would be advisable not to send them to school if they were widening your bubble to include someone over 70.

Some people can return to work and business reopens if safe

People must work from home if they can. Where that is not possible businesses may re-open but must comply with health and safety requirements around physical distancing and contactless engagement with customers.

Businesses only accessed by the staff, and without a customer facing function, such as building and construction or forestry can open under strict health and safety and physical distancing rules.

Businesses that are accessed by the public or customers such as retail, hardware stores and restaurants can open but only for online or phone purchases and contactless delivery or click and collect.

Partial reopening of education

Early childhood centres and schools will be available up to Year 10 only, but attendance is purely voluntary. For children who are able, distance learning is still the best option. Tertiary education will mostly be through distance learning.

Public playgrounds would also remain closed during alert level 3.

"I personally know how hard this is, you try taking a 2-year-old past some play equipment they can't use, but we just can't risk one piece of equipment being a vector for transmission still at this point," Ardern said.

Travel restrictions remain but move from local to regional

More people will travel to work or take children to school. But to avoid taking potential Covid-19 cases to other parts of the country, movement will be restricted.

Funerals and weddings

Funerals (including tangi) and weddings will be able to go ahead, but limited to 10 people. But they can only be services. No meals, food or receptions can take place.

Ardern said this would enable people who wanted to take part in a legal wedding ceremony to do so.

"Sadly, level 3 is about reducing risks, and as you will have seen from some of our devastating clusters, life events means a major risk," she said.

Ardern said people would still be required to stay two metres away from others at alert level 3.

However in some circumstances, such as workplaces, it can be one metre.

"Level 3 is a progression - not a rush to normality, many things will feel the same as they do now," Ardern said.

"Treasury modelling tells us that we are better off in the longer term to stay in levels 3 and 4 a bit longer now rather than to have to switch back later."

Ardern said she wanted to be confident that New Zealand won't be returning to lockdown if the decision is made to move to alert level 3.

The initial four-week lockdown period ends on Wednesday night.

However experts have said they need more data before a decision is made.

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