New Zealand will begin a staged approach to alert level 2 from Thursday, the Prime Minister announced today.
Jacinda Ardern said Cabinet has agreed New Zealand is ready to move into level 2, “to open up the economy, but to do it as safely as possible.”
From Thursday 14 May, retail, malls, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, and other public spaces including playgrounds and gyms, can reopen. All will be required to have physical distancing and strict hygiene measures in place. On Monday 18 May, schools will be allowed to re-open.
Bars will be allowed to open from Thursday, 21 May under strict requirements – seating must be provided, there must be space between tables, and there mustn’t be multiple waiters and waitresses serving a single table.
“We have left bars till last because they do pose the most risk, as we can see from South Korea that recently opened up there bars, only to close them again after one person created an outbreak of 40 people and 1500 tests,” Ardern said.
“While we have put in place measures and expectations to make all hospitality as safe as possible, these few extra days really do give us a chance to lock in the data from level three and feel more secure that we’re ready for this move.
“Overall though, the upshot is that in 10 days’ time we will have reopened most businesses in New Zealand, and sooner than many other countries around the world. But that fits with our plan – go hard, go early – so we can get our economy moving again sooner, and so we get the economic benefit of getting our health response right.”
Ardern said the government will look at the remaining restrictions again in two weeks.
“If our numbers continue to look good the number of people you can socialise with, and hold events with, will grow.
“Last Thursday when announcing what level 2 looks like I said the key rule is to play it safe. That we all need to take individual responsibility for our actions and continue to behave like the virus is still amongst us, especially when in public and among people we don’t know.
“At level 4 and 3 we had success because staying home meant we broke the chain of transmission. We simply weren’t in contact with others to spread the virus.
“At Level 2 we are now out and about again, just about all parts of the economy are opening up again. What we have balanced in these decisions, is how we can do that, get restaurants opens, malls open, shops open, but also how we can keep them open.”
Businesses welcome move
BusinessNZ CEO Kirk Hope said level 4 and 3 restrictions had been difficult and destructive for many businesses and there would be relief at their lifting.
“The response to the challenge by businesses and all the community has been impressive,” Hope said.
“But recovery of the economy is some way away and businesses face continued challenge from the pandemic emergency.”
The Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Business Central said the government’s staged roll-out of level 2 will come as a relief to the majority of businesses.
“It has certainly not been easy and the lockdown has been stressful for business owners and employees alike.But, we all played our part well and are in a position few other countries have the opportunity to be in,” said John Milford, Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Business Central CEO, said.
“The focus now needs to shift to restoring people’s livelihoods and rebuilding our economy. This Thursday’s budget will play an extremely important part in setting the tone for the next several years.
“Businesses want to see a pathway forward more than anything. The government has to be clear about what it wants to achieve, how they will get there, and what support there will be over the coming year for businesses still recovering.”
The Ministry of Health reported three new confirmed cases of COVID-19 today.
Two cases are linked to the St Margaret’s Hospital & Rest Home in Auckland. The individuals are both nurses at Waitakere Hospital.
Today’s cases bring New Zealand’s combined total of confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases to 1497. This is made up of 1147 confirmed cases, which is the number reported to the World Health Organization, and 350 probable cases.
According to the Ministry, New Zealand has 1,386 people reported as having recovered from COVID-19, an increase of 15 on yesterday. This is 93 per cent of all confirmed and probable cases.
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