COVID-19: Auckland to move to 'level 2.5' on Sunday - what you need to know

Auckland will be transitioning to "alert level 2.5" from 11:59pm on Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed.

The rest of New Zealand will remain at level 2.

Addressing reporters at a briefing on Sunday, Ardern outlined what alert level 2.5 - a form of level 2 - will look like for Aucklanders. Just two new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on Sunday, after 11 were recorded in the community the day before.

Here's what you need to know.

Social gatherings

Under level 2.5, all social gatherings - whether it be birthday parties, family reunions or catch-ups with friends - will be limited to a maximum of 10 people.

"That includes everything... no gathering can be larger than 10," Ardern reiterated, noting that much of Auckland's existing cluster stemmed from social gatherings.

"To stop the spread, we must stop socialising for a time."

For customer-facing businesses, Ardern advises staff to revert back to the protocols implemented under level 2 last time, noting that the expectations are the same.

For the hospitality sector, for example, restaurants cannot serve groups of more than 10 people. Groups must remain seated and be attended to by a single staff member. 

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


Unlike last time at alert level 2, masks are now mandatory on public transport for all Aucklanders aged 12 and over. This applies to buses, trains and ferries, as well as drivers for taxi companies and rideshare apps.

Although wearing a mask outside of public transport is not compulsory, Aucklanders are strongly encouraged to cover their faces while in public spaces. 

"We won't rule out mandating the use of masks in the future if people fail to use them as encouraged," she said.

"Please wear them, Auckland. If you step out of your home, please wear a mask."

Aucklanders are "strongly encouraged" to wear masks when out and about.
Aucklanders are "strongly encouraged" to wear masks when out and about. Photo credit: Getty

Aged-care facilities

Aged-care facilities will be operating under very strict settings under level 2.5.

The Prime Minister apologised to anyone these rules may impact, but noted the importance of keeping everyone in our aged-care facilities safe.

She urged Aucklanders with family or friends at an aged-care facility to contact the centre to be advised on its specific protocol.


Most importantly, Ardern reiterated that alert level 2.5 protocol does not simply apply within Auckland's regional boundaries. All Aucklanders are expected to stick to the restrictions no matter where they go in the country.

As inter-regional travel is once again permitted, the Government is taking precautionary measures to ensure COVID-19 isn't spread across the country.

"These aren't just rules for the city of Auckland. These are guidelines for Aucklanders. We ask you to apply them no matter where you are in the country," Ardern said.

"If you are an Aucklander, please don't just pop into an aged-care facility, no matter where it is in the country. Please don't attend a mass gathering, even if it's not in Auckland. If you are sick, stay home, don't travel. 

"We are relying on common sense and care, rather than enforcement to make it work for Aucklanders who are travelling."

Along with these precautions, the rest of New Zealand will remain at level 2 to help ensure the virus isn't spread.

NZ COVID Tracer app

It is now mandatory for businesses nationwide to display a QR code poster linked to the Government's official NZ COVID Tracer app. From September 3, it will also become compulsory for transport hubs such as train and bus stations to be equipped with a QR code, to aid contact tracing efforts.

Ardern said it's imperative that New Zealanders use the app and keep a record of their movements by scanning the posters.

"I urge everyone to use them," she said.

'A new normal'

"These new normals will take a little while to get used to," Ardern told reporters.

"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."

Under New Zealand's new normal, public health measures remain imperative. These include maintaining good hand hygiene, staying at home when sick and getting tested if presenting flu-like symptoms. In Auckland, that includes wearing a mask on public transport and strongly considering opting for a face covering when in public.

"If you have cold or flu symptoms, get a test," Ardern reiterated, noting that testing of people without symptoms will continue as part of broader surveillance.

"We will step up levels again if we need to - if everyone plays their part, we can stamp out this outbreak," she said.

"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."