Covid-19: New Zealand Moves to Level 2 Restrictions This Week

Domestic travel, eating out, and visiting friends and family will all be allowed from Thursday.

A bird’s-eye view of Queenstown, New Zealand, from the Skyline Gondola. (Photo: Natsicha/iStock)

Following a cabinet meeting this morning, New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that her government will further downgrade its coronavirus restrictions to alert level 2 in three separate stages. There will be no extension to the current level 3 measures when they expire on Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. local time. Under alert level 2, a whole raft of activities will become permissible, and New Zealanders can look forward to some semblance of normal life.

Shopping malls, cinemas, hairdressers, markets, and stores are all set to reopen on Thursday. Cafés and restaurants can resume dine-in services, so long as they abide by the “three S’s rule” outlined by Ardern last week: all patrons must be seated, with tables separated to ensure social distancing, and with one single server per table. Even fast-food outlets will not have counter service to minimize person-to-person contact. Businesses must maintain contact tracing records to keep track of all interactions on the premises, and keep a distance of at least one meter between each customer.

Playgrounds, libraries, and museums are reopening to the public, as are hospitals and clinics for non-emergency health services. Team sports will be allowed, with contact tracing records and hygiene measures in place—no one should train or play if they have any symptoms of Covid-19. Public swimming pools and gyms can operate under certain conditions. Walking, biking, and hunting on public conservation land are back on the cards, while motorized water sports and boating will also resume.

Visiting friends and family will no longer be discouraged; domestic travel is restarting as soon as Thursday. Air New Zealand is set to reintroduce seven routes over the coming days, raising its domestic capacity to 20 percent of pre-crisis levels. In a press release last week, CEO Greg Foran explained that low fares would not be available for the time being, as “one-meter social distancing means we can only sell just under 50 percent of seats on a turboprop aircraft and just 65 percent on an A320.”

The second phase is slated to begin next Monday, May 18, when all schools, universities, and early learning centers will reopen. Bars will be the last businesses to come back online, and can only start operating on Thursday, May 21.

New Zealand has been widely hailed as a success story when it comes to containing and eliminating Covid-19. The nation recorded just three new confirmed cases of the disease on Monday; 90 active cases remain across the country as of May 11, with two of those being treated in hospital.

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