4 Oct 2021

The 3 steps to easing Auckland restrictions: what you need to know

9:31 pm on 4 October 2021

The government has announced a three-step plan for easing Auckland's alert level 3 restrictions. Here's what you can do at each of the steps.

Central Auckland on Wednesday 25 August 2021 on the eighth today of a Covid-19 lockdown.

Photo: RNZ / John Edens

The government's three-step plan for Auckland will allow - over time - for outdoor socialising as well as stores, pre-schools and schools to re-open.

The intention is to to allow whānau to reconnect with each other and more businesses to operate as well as educational facilities to resume having children on site.

Under the roadmap Auckland will remain at alert level 3 for the foreseeable future as the restrictions are eased. The rest of the country stays at alert level 2.

However, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made clear during the announcement of the easing of some restrictions today: "In total, this phasing amounts to a careful and methodical transition plan for Auckland."

So, how will it operate?

With the Auckland region still at level 3, masks must be worn in most indoor settings and social distancing of 2 metres still applies.

The air and road boundaries between the city and the rest of the New Zealand, including the alert level 3 area in Waikato, will remain in place.

It's intended schools will reopen on 18 October 2021, although this will be confirmed the week beforehand.

"In the meantime, if your child is aged 12 and older and is not yet vaccinated we strongly urge you to use these two weeks to get them vaccinated," Ardern said.

There are no dates for moving to each step - it will depend on advice from health officials.

Step 1

  • Outdoor gatherings between two households can go ahead, with a maximum of 10 people attending
  • Travel is allowed anywhere in the Auckland region for exercise, sports or recreation outdoors
  • Early learning centres can reopen to all children, with a maximum of 10 children in each bubble

The prime minister said the 'outdoor' part may not sound relevant but it is in fact the most relevant part of all.

"Keep it outside,' she said.

"The science tells us Covid finds it hard to spread outdoors ... children can have a play date in a park, friends can meet outside for a walk, a picnic or a beer."

Ardern said the public health team believe that with the right precautions in place, the risk posed by reopening early childhood centres is low. This includes limits of 10 within a bubble in ECE and strict infection control.

"To ensure this is done as safely as possible though we're encouraging early learning teachers to get tested alongside other Aucklanders who will return to work and we'll look at options for more regular but less invasive surveillance testing.

"This is an added precaution and an acknowledgement that children at that age cannot be vaccinated."

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Photo: RNZ/Vinay Ranchhod

Step 2

  • Retail can operate, with customers able to enter premises, wearing face coverings and keeping 2 metres apart
  • Public facilities like libraries and museums can reopen, with face coverings and 2-metre social distancing required
  • Outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people can go ahead
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Photo: RNZ/Vinay Ranchhod

Step 3

  • Hospitality venues, like cafes, bars, and restaurants, can reopen with a limit of 50 people
  • Event facilities likes cinemas, casinos, and theatres can open with a limit of 50 people in a defined space, wearing face coverings and 2-metre physical distancing
  • Close contact businesses, like hairdressers, barbers and beauty salons, can reopen, with workers wearing face coverings
  • Social gatherings, indoors and outdoors, can take place with a limit of 50 people in a defined space.
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Photo: RNZ/Vinay Ranchhod

"At the end of these steps, we will then move to a national framework that reflects a more highly vaccinated population, allowing us the ability to deal with riskier settings such as large-scale events with the use of vaccine certificates," Ardern said.

Today the country hit the milestone of 2 million New Zealanders vaccinated.

  • NZ needs a more urgent vaccination plan — with nearly 80% now single-dosed, the majority will support it
  • South Island businesses frustrated at lack of level change
  • Auckland to remain in alert level 3, some restrictions ease
  • Covid-19 vaccine uptake among Māori 2/3 of general population