21 Aug 2021

Covid-19: What the different alert levels mean

11:48 am on 21 August 2021

Explainer - A new Covid-19 case in the community was discovered today, prompting a New Zealand-wide alert level 4 lockdown from 11.59pm.

A person using the Covid Tracer app

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield addressed New Zealanders this evening after a case was discovered in Auckland, and announced all of New Zealand would move to alert level 4 for three days, with Auckland and Coromandel to remain at level four for a further four days.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said last week if there was a case of the highly infectious Delta variant in New Zealand, the entire country would enter level 4 lockdown.

There are some things that are required across all alert levels, including wearing masks on public transport and on domestic flights, practising good hygiene and keeping a safe distance from people when out in public. People are always encouraged to use the Covid-19 tracer app, or keep track of where they have been.

There are also some big differences, and the following is an explanation of what is involved in the different levels.

* Some rules issued by the Ministry of Health have been updated since initial publication of this article, and this information has been edited to reflect this.

Level 4

Level 4 means it's likely Covid-19 is not contained from spreading in New Zealand and there could be "widespread outbreaks" or sustained community transmission.

Level 4 means Covid-19 is not contained in New Zealand and there is a risk it is spreading in the community.

People must stay at home in their bubble unless for essential movement, including for essential work, to go to the supermarket, clinics and pharmacies, for example.

All businesses must close except for essential services, including those mentioned above, petrol stations and lifeline utilities. Travel is severely restricted.

People can exercise in their local community, but playgrounds are off-limits. All gatherings are cancelled, educational facilities and public venues are closed.

The Ministry of Health says in alert level 4 supplies may be rationed, facilities can be requisitioned and health services reprioritised.

People are advised to get tested if they have symptoms or have been at a location of interest, and keep a safe distance from others.

Record-keeping of where you have been is mandatory.

Anyone working at or visiting essential services and aged 12 or over is required to wear masks, including petrol stations, supermarkets, pharmacies, bus terminals and in taxis.

Level 3

At level 3, people must stay within their household bubble whenever they are not at work or school. The bubble can expand to include close family and whānau, caregivers and support isolated people.

People must keep 2m away from others in public and 1m in schools and workplaces.

People can travel locally, for example going to work or school, shopping, or getting exercise.

Woman using public transport during Covid-19 crisis wearing face mask.

People must wear masks on public transport at all alert levels Photo: 123RF

Travel between regions is restricted, but people can apply for an exemption in special circumstances.

Gatherings are also restricted and allowed only for weddings, funerals and tangihanga and limited to 10 people. All public venues are closed.

Staff must work from home if they can, and businesses can only open to the public if they are contactless. Staff must be 1m apart.

Children and young people must study from home, but can go to school or educational facilities if there is no supervision at home.

The same rules as for mask wearing at alert level 4 apply to level 3, with masks mandatory for customers and employees when in contact at an operating business or service. This includes travel on public transport, flights and taxis, visiting healthcare or aged care facilities, and attending other essential services and public areas. 

Mask use when outside the home in other areas, especially when unable to maintain a 2m distance, is also encouraged.

Level 2

In level 2, people can travel locally, but must not cross alert-level borders, unless they are exempt from observing that restriction. Gatherings, including weddings, civil union ceremonies, birthdays, funerals and tangihanga are limited to 100 people for outdoor events and 50 for indoors.

People can exercise if they can do so safely, and businesses can open, but must follow public health rules. All early learning services, schools, kura and tertiary education facilities are open.

Wearing masks in public places and record-keeping of where you have been are now mandatory. You may take your mask off at places like gyms and eateries, but social distancing must be observed.

Children in schools are not required to wear a face mask but are encouraged to do so.

Older people and those at higher risk are advised to take extra precautions.

Level 1

Life is relatively normal in level 1, but there are obvious reminders that isn't the case for the rest of the world.

Controls at the border remain, people are advised to stay home if unwell, call Healthline if they have symptoms to see if they need to be tested, and wear masks on all public transport and domestic flights.

People are encouraged to practice good hygiene, socially distance from people they don't know and keep track of where they have been using the Covid tracer app, but data shows the use of the app has been 'abysmal'.

This is an official COVID-19 ALERT.

From 11:59pm tonight 17 August, ALL OF NEW ZEALAND moves to COVID-19 Alert Level 4.

The Alert Level will be reviewed after 3 days for all areas EXCEPT Auckland & Coromandel Peninsula which is likely to remain at Level 4 for an initial period of 7 days.

A community case of COVID-19 has been identified.

STAY HOME where possible & follow the Alert Level 4 guidelines. This will stop the spread of COVID-19 and SAVE LIVES.

Everyone is asked to:

Wear a mask and keep a 2 metre distance from others whenever you leave your home

If you are sick, call your doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice about getting tested

Keep on scanning QR code's whenever you leave your home

Practice good hygiene - wash hands often.

Services including supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics & petrol stations will stay open at Alert Level 4.

For more information on Alert Level 4 go to www.covid19.govt.nz.

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Kia Kaha - Stay Strong

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