New Zealand has changed its COVID-19 Alert System level from Level 4 to Level 3, signifying its gradual lifting of the country’s lockdown measures.
The alert system is a guide for citizens and residents to reference so that they can understand the various restrictions that the government may be required to implement and how to follow them.
A Level 4 alert is defined as “Lockdown,” and means that people are instructed to remain at home “in their bubble” and only venture out for essential services and exercise. Travel is also severely limited, and public gatherings cancelled with all public venues closed.
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A Level 4 also means that all businesses must close except for essential services, including grocery stores, pharmacies, clinics, etc.
Schools are also instructed to close.
While switching to a Level 3, which is classified as “Restrict,” means that measures are being lifted, it also means that there is still a “high risk the disease is not contained,” New Zealand’s coronavirus website explains.
Level 3 also still instructs residents to stay home except for “essential personal movement – including to go to work, school if they have to or for local recreation.”
Physical distancing measures must still be followed, including on public transport, and in schools and workplaces.
Residents are encouraged to remain in their “household bubble,” but can extend this area to reconnect with family, or bring in caregivers or support isolated individuals.
“This extended bubble should remain exclusive,” the site explains.
Schools (grades one through 10) and Early Childhood Education centres are now permitted to open, although with limited capacity. Children should continue to learn at home, if at all possible.
People are also encouraged to continue working from home if they can.
However, businesses may reopen their premises, given that all interactions are contactless, and workers do not physically interact with customers.
“Low-risk local recreation activities are allowed,” the site states.
However, public venues, including libraries, museums, movie theatres, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds, and markets, will remain closed.
Congregations of up to 10 people are now permitted, but only for wedding services, funerals, and tangihanga, a traditional Māori funeral rite, and physical distancing, as well as other public health measures, must be maintained.
In terms of travel, inter-regional journeys remain extremely limited to select individuals, including essential workers, with other limited exceptions.
In a coronavirus update press conference on Thursday, Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, explained that, with the restrictions lifted to an Alert Level 3, an extra 400,000 New Zealanders can return to work, meaning that roughly 75% of the country’s economy is now operating.
“This extra activity does come with extra responsibility,” the prime minister explained.
She continued that it is essential for residents to remain home and continue physical distancing if there is no “proper reason” to be outdoors.
Ardern refers to Level 3 as the “waiting room” and explains that it is when the government checks that all that they wanted to see in Level 4 was put in place and executed properly and appropriately.
Such indicators that they look for include no surges in cases, no community transmission, and that they “still have control of the virus.”
Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, the Director-General of Health in New Zealand, also added in the press conference that they would be looking for the “degree of compliance” in terms of physical distancing, particularly that businesses have put in place to be able to operate under Level 3.
The Prime Minister and Director-General both also discussed the preliminary conditions and preparations that would permit the safe shifting from an Alert Level 3 to a Level 2, which is defined as “Reduce.”
A Level 2 is described as the disease being contained, “but the risk of community transmission remains,” the coronavirus website explains.
To watch the entire press conference, see below: