8 May 2020

Covid-19: PM Jacinda Ardern says level 2 'not a return to business as usual'

8:26 am on 8 May 2020

With restaurants, bars, beauty salons and professional sports set to return in alert level 2, some normality seems imminent, but the prime minister is warning it is just another transition.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the Covid-19 media conference on 7 May, 2020.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern explaining alert level 2 at a press conference on Thursday. Photo: Pool / NZME

Ahead of Monday's decision on whether an alert level change will take place next week, the government is letting the public know what to expect.

At the daily press conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern threw cold water on the idea that life under alert level 2 will be the same as before Covid-19.

"Ultimately, level 2 is our safer normal, not a return to business as usual, Treasury modelling did tell us we are better off in the longer term to move down through the alerts progressively, so it does mean getting every stage right," she said.

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And while the country's case numbers have dropped dramatically through alert levels 3 and 4, there is still more hard work to come.

"We think of ourselves as halfway down Everest. I think it is clear that no one wants to hike back up that peak. The descent is known to be even more dangerous so we must proceed with caution," Ardern said.

Under alert level 2 , hairdressers and beauticians will wear PPE, restaurants and bars can only serve seated patrons and professional sports stars will play without crowds.

But Ardern said even that might not all happen at once.

"Moving into level 2 is a large step, we would rather start that journey than to wait back in level 3 longer than we need to, but it may be that we get advice that the higher risk elements of level 2 may need a little more time," she said.

However, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said any phasing of level 2 will be kept to a minimum.

"Parts of it may be phased, but it will make sense when you hear it, but it will be very limited phasing in very few areas," he said.

Schools have also been given the green light at alert level 2 , with heightened health and safety practices.

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Education Minister Chris Hipkins said parents should not have to worry about safety or a drop in academic performance when sending their children back through the school gates.

"We didn't see a dip in results after the Christchurch earthquakes, where we had a number of kids out of school for an extended period of time, so I think that's good, that provides us some positive reassurance that it is possible to bounce back," he said.

Hipkins said schools were working hard to make sure students could catch up whether they were working from home or back in the classroom.

For many people it will be getting to see their friends and family that will make the biggest difference.

Social distancing of 2 metres will still need to happen, but Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says people can get closer to whānau.

"I'm looking forward to giving some of my more extended family members and friends a careful hug, but for work colleagues and perhaps people I'm meeting for the first time, I'll be sticking probably to an elbow bump," he said.

And it's possible that hug or elbow could be less than a week away.

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