Businesses to open, but entry to level 2 could be phased

All businesses, shops and offices can open under alert level 2, events will be limited to 100 people and you will no longer be required to stick to your bubble, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

After director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield revealed one new case of Covid-19, Ardern began outlining life under level 2.

Ardern indicated it would be possible that the entry into level 2 could be phased when Cabinet makes its decision on Monday, as the Government would rather play it safe than risk being forced to move back to level 3.

Under alert level 2 could now leave their bubble, but she asked people keep gatherings small.

 

Space, hygiene and contact tracing principles still applied. Have people over for dinner, she said, but keep numbers small and it was not the time for a large party.

Public parks and recreational sports facilities will be open again, and professional sport can resume again such as Super Rugby and the national netball league.

Ardern said ECE centres and schools will open at level 2, and with so few cases in New Zealand, those will be safe environments for students and staff.

She said while businesses, including restaurants and bars, would be able to reopen strict social distancing measures would need to be put in place, which may result in some businesses not being able to open.

Indoor and outdoor events would be limited to 100 people. Weddings and concerts could happen, as long as there were fewer than 100 people

On domestic travel, which was previously restricted under the level 2 guidelines, Ardern said people will be allowed to move "safely" around the country.

This will boost domestic tourism, she said, and people will be excited to get a haircut and have a holiday.

People should keep physical distance, for example, at airports.

Bars and restaurants and hairdressers

Hospitality, including cafes and bars, can open but that meant only businesses that can apply the thee Ss. The first is seated - capacity only for how many can be seated to prevent congestion, Ardern says.

The second S is separation. There has to be space between people and tables, for example, and each table must have a single server (third S), and service at the table rather than the counter.

Contact tracing will likely include QR codes, but manual or digital recording should be used in the meantime for customers.

Customer contact outside venues, in queues for instance, will have to be controlled or businesses will risk losing their ability to stay open

Service premises and office spaces can open, but "the fewer people the better" to make contact tracing easier and faster.

Staggered start times and working from home should still be a part of the mix, she said, and each business can work out their best practices.

Hairdressers and retail stores can open again, but surfaces must be cleaned and physical distance should be kept. Malls can open and be treated like supermarkets are now, including with appropriate PPE where needed.

Bloomfield said mask wearing for hairdressers and in beauty salons made sense at level 2, but at the moment there was no intention to make mask-wearing compulsory.

Schools to re-open

Distance learning will still be available for those unable to return to school, such as for people isolating because they have Covid-19, she said.

A positive case in a school will mean that school will close for 72 hours to enable contact tracing, and possibly for 14 days if required.

Schools will open at the start of a week, whenever a decision is made about moving to level 2, she said.

Kids should still stay at home if sick.

Schools will also have to keep attendance records for contact tracing purposes.

She said New Zealanders should be proud of the low number of cases, and Kiwis had been innovative in trying to operate safely under level 3.

Cabinet will consider the evidence about moving to level 2 on Monday, with the latest Covid-19 data.

"No one wants a second wave - no one," Ardern said.

The PM said the virus had bounced back in other countries, and New Zealand needed to "stay in control".

Level 3 had been about restricting contact as much as possible, and level 2 was still aimed at reducing close contact with strangers.

"It is very unlikely that we have hunted down every single case of Covid-19. If stray cases start new chains of transmission, we might not find them for a month," Ardern said.

She said level 2 was about keeping the economy back up and running, but "play it safe".

The health principles were the same, including to stay home if you are even "slightly sick", being tested for even a runny nose or a sore throat, and washing hands often and properly all of the time

"Don't pass other people your phone," was one example the PM gave.

The border will still be closed to non-New Zealanders.

Test, contact trace and isolate would remain in place, she said.

​One new case

She has been joined by director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield who revealed there was one confirmed case and no deaths.

The new case is linked to the Matamata cluster.The Waikato DHB is calling for anyone in the area to seek advice if they want to be tested, he said.

The total number of confirmed and probable Covid-19 cases is 1489, and 1332 people have recovered, or 89% of all cases.

There are two people in hospital. The death toll from Covid-19 in New Zealand remains at 21.

Testing was higher than 7000 yesterday for the first time and Bloomfield said this was a good sign as DHBs were getting ready for surveillance testing.

A quick hug with your mates at level 2

Bloomfield earlier told the NZ Herald the health principles of level 2 were the same: physical distancing, hand hygiene, getting tested early for any symptoms, and staying home if sick.

"Hugs and handshakes - if you don't know someone, be really rigorous around physical distancing. But if it's close friends and family, you want to be careful of course, but it's starting to return to normal.

"I would imagine it would still be elbow bumps and quick hugs."

Physical distancing was more important because people will be interacting a lot more with friends as well as strangers, he said.

"We need to maintain real vigilance around physical distancing, particularly in situations where it's not quite as controlled like a work environment or a school environment."

In those higher-risk environments, such as public transport, he said people may wish to wear a mask, but they will not be compelled to.

"We've just had another look at the evidence. People may wish to use a mask. If they know how to use it properly, that's fine, but at this point we won't be insisting on masking."

Some public health experts including Otago University epidiologist Professor Michael Baker have been calling for mass masking to be considered.

Bloomfield said it was common for people in South East Asia to wear masks in public, but that was because they had a cold and were trying to prevent germs from spreading.

"One of our key public health principles is: don't go out if you've got a cold, don't go to work, don't send children to school if they have a respiratory infection."

He said that he expected testing to be ramped up again from next week, once DHBs had finalised surveillance plans.

Daily testing has fallen from a peak of 6961 on April 23, which was partly due to the lull over Anzac weekend. It has been under 5000 for the past four days.

"We want to keep the testing rates up."

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