Covid-19: Life in alert level 1

Carefully skirting other shoppers at the supermarket and staying seated in pubs could soon be a distant memory in New Zealand, with the country on track to move to alert level 1 as early as next Wednesday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has explained this afternoon what level 1 will look like, ahead of a possible loosening of the rules next week.

Yesterday, Ardern revealed that with infection case numbers "exceeding expectations" she was considering whether it was possible to move the country from alert level 2 to 1 as soon as June 10.

That decision would be made by Cabinet on Monday, based on whether current trends continue.

There is just one active case of Covid-19 left in New Zealand, and there have been no new cases for 12 days in a row, the Ministry of Health said today.

What does alert level 1 look like?

Ardern today indicated that life in level 1 will be back to normal, with essentially all restrictions lifted, apart from border controls.

Under alert level 1, Covid-19 is considered contained in New Zealand, according to the Government's Unite against Covid website.

But that doesn't mean it's gone. The disease is still uncontrolled overseas, and "isolated household transmission could be occurring in New Zealand", the website says.

In level 1 people and businesses should be "vigilant" and prepared to quickly move into higher alert levels, Ardern said.

For many Kiwis not much will change in level 1, apart from a relaxing of social distancing rules.

But the move will be a relief for hospitality businesses - particularly nightclubs which have been unable to open in level 2 due to requirements that people remain seated in bars.

Many religious organisations such as churches have also held off gathering together under level 2 restrictions, preferring to wait for the 100-person cap to be lifted in level 1.

Here's what we know about level 1 - based on the latest information from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Prime Minister's announcement today.

Good hygiene, including sneezing into your elbow, is encouraged. Photo: Getty Images
Good hygiene, including sneezing into your elbow, is encouraged. Photo: Getty Images

Public health measures

There's still a risk of another outbreak of Covid-19. For that reason, people with even mild cold or flu symptoms should stay home and get tested for Covid-19 as soon as possible.

If you're symptomatic, you should self-isolate until you have received a negative test and your symptoms are gone.

Physical distancing will no longer be mandatory but will still be encouraged, and people are asked to keep taking hygiene precautions - including washing and drying hands, coughing into elbows and not touching their faces. Frequent disinfecting of surfaces is also encouraged.

Ardern said anyone ordered to self-isolate by a public health official in level 1 must do so immediately.

Contact tracing and testing

Community-based assessment centres and some general practices will still be carrying out tests; random testing may also be done in the community to ensure there's no undetected transmission of the virus.

Contact tracing will be carried out for any probable or confirmed cases of Covid-19 - for that reason it's a good idea to keep track of where you've been and who you've been with, and to download and use the Government's Covid-tracer app.

Anyone who displays relevant symptoms of Covid-19 or has been in close contact with a confirmed case will be required to follow strict self-isolation, or be quarantined if they can't do so themselves.


Workplaces will be fully open but are asked to take precautions and ensure work can be done safely. That includes meeting all public health requirements such as handwashing and disinfecting surfaces.

Businesses are also asked to print out and display the Covid Tracer QR code to make contact tracing easier in the case of a confirmed case on their premises.

However social distancing will no longer be required.

Education facilities

Schools and other education providers will be fully open. But a confirmed or probably case of Covid-19 will see the school close temporarily if advised by the local public health unit, to support contact tracing and case management.

Large gatherings

There will be no restrictions on the number of people who can attend sports events, concerts, cinemas or other gatherings, and no requirements for physical distancing.

Ardern said in alert level 1 it was a matter of being prepared to contact trace successfully in the event of a case being confirmed.

The Government would work alongside those hosting events like sports games with potentially thousands of people attending, to ensure they could successfully track down people who may have been exposed to the virus.

For events like concerts there was still work to be done, given people may not all be in ticketed seats. Venues were already working to improve their own protocols, with better hygiene and work to ensure they could contact trace, Ardern said.

Restrictions on restaurants will be relaxed under alert level 1. Photo: Getty Images
Restrictions on restaurants will be relaxed under alert level 1. Photo: Getty Images

Restaurants, bars and nightclubs

Nightclubs will be able to fully reopen with dancing and mingling no longer off-limits. Restaurants and bars - which currently have to serve people seated, socially distanced and with a single server for each table - will no longer have those restrictions. A 100-person cap on patrons will also be lifted.

Health services

No restrictions. Hospitals, GP clinics and disability care services can go back to operating normally in level 1 - in level 2 they were still required to follow strict distancing and infection control guidelines, and consult remotely where possible.

Funerals, tangihanga and religious gatherings

There will be no cap on the number of people who can gather together - unlike level 2 in which there is a 100 person limit.

Travel and border controls

You'll be able to travel anywhere in New Zealand - even flying - with no restrictions or social distancing required. That includes all forms of public transport, including planes - unless you're sick, in which case, stay home.

But border entry measures will remain in place, meaning anyone arriving from overseas will continue to be quarantined or put into isolation in managed facilities for 14 days.

Ardern said today the border restrictions and exemptions - both for economic and compassionate reasons - would continue to be reviewed.

The 10 Golden Rules of Alert level 1

• If you're sick, stay home

• If you have cold or flu symptoms, call your doctor or Healthline and get tested

• Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands

• Sneeze or cough into your elbow, and disinfect shared surfaces

• Self-isolate immediately if told so by authorities

• If you have underlying conditions, talk with your GP about precautions

• Keep track of where you've been to help with contact tracing

• Businesses should help by displaying the Ministry of Health QR code

• Stay vigilant - be ready to step up alert levels if needed

• Be kind to others and to yourself




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