7 May 2020

Covid-19: What will alert level 2 look like? NZ will find out more today

7:49 am on 7 May 2020

Today New Zealanders will find out what life will look like if Cabinet agrees to loosen lockdown restrictions next week, and move into alert level 2.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says alert level 2 rules may end up looking quite different than the guidelines first set out. Photo: Pool / NZME

There are existing guidelines about what would be allowed, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said these will be updated and may end up looking quite different.

The current guidelines

Physical distancing would still be required but going to school, going out to eat and celebrating, or mourning, milestone events would become a lot easier.

Schools would open to all students, hospitality venues could reopen under certain conditions and larger weddings and funerals could be held.

Borders would remain closed but business and social activity would be much less restrictive.

There would still be limits on mass gatherings - no more than 100 indoors and 500 outdoors, and as long as you're not breaking those rules you could get back to playing sport and doing other recreational activities.

Travel around the country would be loosened slightly in alert level 2 but under the current rules would still have to be "essential"; the tourism industry is hoping ministers have heard their pleas, and their assurances they could operate safely.

What the govt is considering

Ardern said the rules will be updated because so much more was known about the virus.

"What you will have seen us do as we've gone through the different stages, we do take a fresh look at the system that was created at the beginning of the pandemic and what we apply is the latest knowledge, information and evidence to that framework."

The tourism industry has been one of the hardest hit, and Chris Roberts from Tourism Industry Aotearoa said allowing domestic travel that was "safe" as opposed to "essential" may be the lifeline many were hoping for.

Thousands of businesses "teetering on the edge" were ready to get back to business, act appropriately and safely and just wanted a chance to have some customers again, he said.

They could fulfil the key requirements of physical distancing - a metre apart - and the ability to contact trace, Roberts said.

His call was backed by National's finance spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith.

"It's clear that if you shut down domestic tourism as well as international tourism you have a colossal impact on jobs, so the sooner we can get first domestic back and then international tourism the better."

Today's announcement needed to provide a lot more certainty, he said.

"I think people could forgive a huge amount of chaos and uncertainty at the start when we were in a mass panic, now six or seven weeks on we should be better organised and there should be clarity on what's in and what's out."

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Another big change would be in the education system with all children back to school.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said there was resistance from some schools to open under alert level 3, which he described as "unfortunate".

Education Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to media during a press conference at Parliament on 21 April 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Chris Hipkins. Photo: 2020 Getty Images

Schools would only open under alert level 2, he said, if the government was confident there was no widespread community transmission.

There would also be a rapid response if any new cases did occur and "no justification to remain closed, when there is very little risk".

"New Zealanders have been incredibly cautious as we've moved from level 4 to level 3, to some extent a lot of families are still operating as if we are in level 4 conditions.

"I think as we move down to level 2 there is going to be a piece of work there just to reassure parents it is safe to send kids back to school," Hipkins said, with schools needing to play an active role.

National's education spokesperson Nikki Kaye said they should not be forced to reopen if they did not feel ready.

"There is a clearly an issue of confidence by some parents and teachers that needs to be addressed."

"The way to address that is to give really specific guidance that answers parents' and teachers' safety questions, to ensure they get that package of support around things like PPE and hand sanitiser and then that we are pragmatic and understanding of individual parents' and teachers' situations," she said.

Another sector that's been unable to operate to any extent under alert level 3 is personal services - hairdressers, dentists and beauty therapists.

They - along with an increasingly shaggy looking public - will be hoping they too can reopen their doors if New Zealand makes the move to level 2 next week.

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