COVID-19: Auckland joins the rest of country in alert level 1

A weight has been lifted off the metaphorical shoulders of the country today. 

Auckland is now back in COVID-19 alert level 1 for the first time in nearly two months, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the drop in alert levels on Monday.

Crowds and maskless faces are back and it's time to party.

Jooles Clements from Auckland Zoo is relishing in the freedoms level 1 allows the attraction.

"There is no cap on the number of people, people aren't required to book in advance, book sessions, we are significantly busier."

Visitors cover two-thirds of the operating costs at Auckland Zoo, opening their doors to everyone is a win-win. Zoo goers are also lapping up the freedom.

For Auckland hospitality it's better than good after nearly two months of level 2 and 3 this is Christmas come early.

Or rather, New Year's Eve -  At The Fitzroy Lounge Bar everyone got up and counted down to midnight, the time marking the change in levels. 

Nikki Ahern from The Fitzroy is still reliving the bar's midnight moment.

"Everyone got up, everyone got up and started dancing."

Gone are the nights of separated, seated, and single server partying.

"Oh it was such a relief to let people dance again," Ahern says.

"It's been a long four weeks telling people to stay seated."

Thanks to no more gathering restrictions, event organisers can finally fill those seats in the first place. 

Viv Beck from Heart of the City is feeling full of excitement.

"You can feel it in the air that people are really excited to be in level 1."

Events like the Auckland marathon, the Bledisloe Cup, and the Mary Poppins musical are no longer question marks on the big smoke calendar.

The new freedoms come with a reminder from Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield to keep your masks handy.

"Alert level 1 is not alert level none, it even rhymes um."