Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a staggered move into level 2 starting on Thursday, with schools and bars reopening later and groups limited to 10 people.
Ardern, joined by Director-General of Dr Health Ashley Bloomfield, made the announcement at 4pm, saying the country would officially move to level 2 at 11.59pm on Wednesday.
"We may have won the battle, but we have not won the war," Ardern told New Zealanders.
"None of us can assume Covid isn't with us."
She said retail, malls, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and other public spaces including playgrounds and gyms would be able to reopen on Thursday, 14 May.
Schools would return to normal classes from Monday 18 May, while bars would have to wait until Thursday 21 May to reopen.
Ardern clarified that bars would be distinguished from restaurants by using the Easter trading regulations.
She warned that groupings would also be restricted to just 10 people.
- Find out what alert level 2 means here, or watch the Prime Minister's announcement of all the details from last week.
"Why 10? simple. If something goes wrong, that's much easier to contain, much easier to contact trace."
This limit would apply to parties at home, stag and hen parties, church meetings, weddings, funerals and group bookings at restaurants or bars.
People attending movies at the theater or going to a show would have to be spaced out.
"I know that many New Zealanders are looking forward to catching up with friends and family, and this Thursday, you can," Ardern said.
Ardern said she had not been home, and was really looking forward to giving her sister a hug under level 2.
"Go and see your mum, just don't turn it into a massive family gathering while you're at it"
"If our numbers continue to look good, we will begin to grow those numbers [of social gatherings]."
The government has previously said a safe transition that locks in gains made in alert levels 4 and 3 would be its priority, and it would not rule out moving to level 2 in stages.
Ardern warned of a long road ahead to recovery, and urged New Zealanders to continue to maintain public hygiene and health practices.
"At level two we are out and about again. Almost all parts of our economy will reopen."
"Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands, and do it properly ... there are risks ahead so please be vigilant at level 2"
She said things were going to get tougher before they got better.
"Irresponsible behaviour will take us backwards."
She warned that any bars or restaurants not abiding by the level 2 rules would be closed.
She said she would need to check whether or not it would be any different in the first week because of different legislation being applied.
Rest home visits would continue to have very strict requirements at level 2, she said.
Dr Bloomfield confirmed there would not be a requirement for people to wear masks in day to day living.
"We're coming into our alert level 2 in a very good position because of our hard-won gains that we have made under alert levels 4 and 3."
He said the Ministry of Health had advised that bars be closed for two weeks but Cabinet settled on one week.
In making the decision to move to level 2, Cabinet members would have looked at the most up-to-date evidence, advice from Dr Bloomfield and other experts, and weighed all aspects of the country's Covid-19 response against its effects on the economy, businesses and workers.
Earlier today, the regular daily Covid-19 briefing was not held and the Ministry of Health instead revealed via a media release there were three new cases of the coronavirus and no further deaths.
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