Coronavirus: How hospitals will operate under level 3

Much of our lockdown restrictions have been put in place to protect our health system - so how will hospitals operate under level 3?

Thousands of elective surgeries postponed under lockdown will start being done under level 3, but only if it's safe.

"There's a considerable backlog," says surgeon Andrew Connolly.

"Yes people are going to wait longer, but those with very significant conditions where there is an urgency will get their surgery urgently."

Cancers have been a priority, even under level 4. Hospitals are now working through those next on the list, but they won't really start cranking up until level 2 - and it'll take some months to catch up.

Cancer screenings were also paused under lockdown, but the National Screening Unit says people shouldn't worry.

"In terms of breast cancer and how fast it grows, a number of weeks is not going to be material in terms of the outcome," says Jane O'Hallahan, clinical director of the National Screening Unit.

Breast and cervical screening programmes will resume under level 3, giving priority to those who missed out, but women with existing medical conditions will likely have to wait until level 1.

One of the most distressing things during lockdown has been not being able to visit loved ones in hospital.

From Tuesday Waikato DHB will be allowing one visitor per patient from the same bubble, and birthing suites will allow two support people.

But restrictions remain tight amid concerns that COVID-19 could flare up again if we don't take care.

"The parties can wait," Connolly warns.

"This disease moves so fast that we won't get a second chance. We'll be back into level 4 and that's going to bring a whole heap of new problems."

Connolly is urging people to remain self-isolated and continue physical distancing and regular handwashing so we can head towards level 2 and don't end up back in full lockdown.