31 Aug 2020

'Level 2.5' for Auckland comes with specific instructions

6:23 am on 31 August 2020

Aucklanders are waking up to life out of lockdown, with the city moving down alert levels at midnight.

A man wearing a mask collects takeaways near Auckland's Queen Street.

A man wearing a mask collects takeaways near Auckland's Queen Street. File photo. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

But it isn't completely joining the rest of the country in level 2, instead moving to what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is calling "level 2.5".

Aucklanders still face greater restrictions, with gatherings capped at 10 people and authorised funerals and tangihanga at 50.

"I cannot stress how important this is. Much of this cluster has stemmed from social gatherings. If we want to stop the spread we have to stop socialising for a time,"Ardern said.

From today, masks are mandatory on public transport and planes across the country for everyone over 12.

But Ardern made this extra appeal to Aucklanders.

"If you go to a shop wear a mask. If you go to a mall where a mask. Basically when you step out of your home we are asking you if you can please wear a mask," she said.

Ardern said these rules aren't just for the city of Auckland - and Aucklanders should stick to them even if they travel outside of the region.

"Please don't just pop into an aged care facility no matter where it is in the country. Please don't attend a mass gathering even if it's not in Auckland and if you are sick stay home, definitely don't travel," Ardern said.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said this was a common sense requirement.

"No Aucklander wants to be the person that spreads the virus to other places and that's why we've got to be a little bit more careful.

"We've got the right to travel, but let's make sure that we use that right responsibly and carefully," he said.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff speaks to media following Cabinet's extension of the alert level 3 lockdown.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says "complacency is the real enemy". Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Goff said he was "celebrating" the new freedoms Aucklanders have, and while businesses were eager to get to full level 2, a cautious approach was necessary.

"But really our ability to do that depends on all of us. Complacency is the real enemy and if people don't follow the rules and they take risks then that risks us going to a situation where the rules have got to be tightened," Goff said.

National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee said if the health advice recommended caution then he supported that.

"This is not for too long a period and we are stepping towards what our new normal is going to be OK I guess, but it's still a lot of disruption for people in Auckland and a lot of disruption for business activity," he said.

But Brownlee thinks expecting Aucklanders to adhere to these rules outside of Auckland was "unrealistic".

"If there's a gathering of 100 people in Christchurch for example and someone comes from Auckland are they really going to say 'look I better not go cos I'm from Auckland'? I just don't see how that works."

ACT leader David Seymour believed the government was just "making up the system" as it went along.

"Nobody imagined when we had four distinct levels that there would be a level 2.5. I think if there was a need for such a level it should have been communicated and established in the 102 days of Covid freedom. That's the period the government had time to prepare for an outbreak like this," he said.

Seymour said the government needed to be a lot more deliberate, clear and prepared.

But Ardern said this was the same as the "stepping down" phase the last time there was a move down from level 3.

She said level 2 was designed to handle stamping out a cluster like this one, but this graduated step was needed to ensure no region has to move back up alert levels.

Cabinet will review the country's settings again on Friday.

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