COVID-19: A recap of Auckland's 'level 2.5' restrictions

Monday marks the first day of freedom under a 'new normal' for Aucklanders after 18 days of level 3 lockdown. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Sunday that Auckland would be transitioning to "level 2.5" - a more precautionary variation of level 2 protocol - with the extra 0.5 accounting for mask use and restricted social gatherings

The rest of New Zealand remains at alert level 2.

With Aucklanders waking up to their 'new normal' on Monday, here's a recap of what can be expected under level 2.5.

Socialising and gatherings

Under level 2.5, all social gatherings - whether it be church services, family reunions or catch-ups with friends - will be capped at 10 people.

"That includes everything... no gathering can be larger than 10," Ardern reiterated on Sunday. "To stop the spread, we must stop socialising for a time."

Authorised funerals or tangihanga may only be attended by a maximum of 50 guests.

Aged-care facilities will continue operating under very strict settings, Ardern said, advising Aucklanders to ring ahead before visiting an elderly friend or relative.

The restrictions also apply to group outings - for example, groups no bigger than 10 may be served at hospitality venues. Groups are expected to remain seated while at bars, cafes and restaurants, and must maintain social distancing from other patrons.

Although household bubbles are no longer applicable, it carries the same expectations as level 2 the last time. Aucklanders are urged to take personal responsibility and exercise caution when it comes to socialising with strangers or acquaintances, as it presents a greater risk.

For more information on gatherings and events at 'level 2.5', click here.


Masks are now mandatory for anyone aged 12 and over on public transport, including planes, trains, ferries and buses. There are a few exemptions, including school buses, chartered buses, tour groups and private flights. Drivers for taxi companies and rideshare apps are also required to wear a mask.

Although wearing a mask while out and about is not currently mandated, Ardern "strongly encourages" all Aucklanders to cover their face while in public spaces or settings where physical distancing isn't possible.

Speaking on a Facebook Live on Sunday night, Ardern reiterated: "We know it makes a difference... we are strongly encouraging it. So please heed that advice."

Aucklanders are urged to stock up on reusable masks that can be washed between wear. There is no requirement for what the mask has to look like - it can be surgical, homemade, or fashioned out of a scarf or bandana. As long as it covers your nose and mouth, it's acceptable - although Ardern recommends folding a scarf over a few times to ensure the barrier is thicker. 

For more information on face coverings, click here.


Inter-regional travel is once again on the cards after the city's regional boundaries were locked down for 18 days. The decision has proved controversial, with some New Zealanders arguing the removal of the roadblocks will allow the virus to spread outside of Auckland.

Public health measures still apply: those who are sick should stay home and not travel, Ardern reiterated, and masks are mandatory on inter-regional buses and domestic flights. As with all New Zealanders, it is expected that Aucklanders will use their NZ COVID Tracer app to keep a record of their movements outside the city. It's now mandatory for all businesses to have a QR code poster on display for visitors to scan.

COVID-19: A recap of Auckland's 'level 2.5' restrictions
Photo credit: Getty

Speaking on Facebook Live, Ardern noted that containing Aucklanders within the city's regional boundaries was a "more difficult element" of having different alert level settings across the country. 

"As soon as we start opening up things like schools, retail - maintaining a regional border where you're restricting movement just for those things like mass gatherings, that becomes very difficult to sustain," she said. "That's why ultimately the rest of New Zealand remains at level 2, to have that extra layer of precaution."

However, level 2.5 does not stop at the city's borders. All Aucklanders should take responsibility and adhere to the guidelines no matter where they are in the country.

"Please don't just pop into an aged-care facility outside of Auckland. Please don't attend a mass gathering. Think of those rules that apply to Auckland as applying to you as an Aucklander," Ardern said.  


Early learning services, schools and tertiary education providers will be open for all students and young people from Monday.

Ardern reiterated that as there are records of enrollment, it makes it easier for schools to resume as opposed to mass gatherings.

However, if any case is connected to a school, it will be shut while contact tracing, testing, deep cleaning and isolating is undertaken.


Many businesses are able to reopen under 'level 2.5', including restaurants, malls, cinemas, retail shops, health services and hairdressers. Businesses can operate as long as they can do so safely by adhering to the Government's rules. 

All businesses must maintain public health measures, including physical distancing, hand washing and regularly cleaning surfaces. 

Cafes, restaurants, retail and other customer-facing businesses can open as long as contact tracing measures are in place and physical distancing can be maintained. As with last time, businesses are encouraged to operate using the three S's: keep patrons seated, separated, and served by a single staff member.

Customers should maintain a two-metre distance in retail stores, like supermarkets and clothes shops, and a one-metre distance in places like cafes and restaurants.

Workplaces may reopen as long as staff stay at home when sick, shared surfaces are reduced and regularly disinfected and hand hygiene is encouraged and maintained. Face coverings are strongly encouraged if staff are in close contact with one another. A one-metre physical distance is also advised in the workplace.

For more information on which businesses can open and how they should operate safely, click here.

Exercise, recreation and sport

Most forms of exercise and recreation are permitted, as long as the activities can be performed safely. When exercising in public, maintain a two-metre distance from strangers where possible.

Walking, biking and hunting on public conservation land and boating and motorised watersports are permitted. Whitebaiting is also permitted provided physical distancing is maintained while complying with the fishing rules.

Gyms are able to reopen but with strict restrictions, including limits on class numbers, a one-metre physical distance between guests, regular cleaning and contact tracing measures.

Professional sporting leagues are permitted as they take place in controlled workplaces.

Community sports are limited to groups of 100 in a defined space. A sports field can have multiple defined spaces by keeping groups separate, either through consistent two-metre physical distancing when outdoors or barriers. Groups should be prevented from intermingling or sharing common facilities at the same time. 

 For more information on sport and recreation, click here.

'A new normal'

Public health measures such as good hand hygiene, staying home when sick, maintaining physical distancing and wearing a face covering in places where physical distancing isn't always possible remain imperative.

"Our testing regime is good, our contact tracing system is very good - but they will only work if we all play our part to support them. Our collective health and livelihood is in each other's hands," Ardern said on Sunday.

"If you have cold or flu symptoms, get a test.

"We will step up levels again if we need to - if everyone plays their part, we can stamp out this outbreak... We remain in a strong position relative to the rest of the world, with lower numbers of cases and a strong public health system, but that will only take us so far.

"We need the team of 5 million to help us get back to where we need to be. Our system is only as good as our people - and our people are amazing. If anyone can do this, New Zealand can."