Auckland is officially back in alert level 1 - however, level 1 is not level none. It may feel like a return to pre-pandemic normality, but New Zealanders still have an obligation to remain vigilant and follow public health measures.
On February 14, it was announced that three cases of COVID-19 had been detected in the community - a mother, father and daughter from Papatoetoe. The Auckland region was quickly plunged into a provisional three-day lockdown as officials rushed to contact trace, kickstarting a widespread testing campaign.
As of February 22, five additional cases have been found, all of which are linked to the existing cluster - providing reassurance that there are no undetected chains of transmission in the community. However, how the first case contracted the virus remains unknown, with an intensive investigation yet to pinpoint the source.
One of the new cases, Case H, was announced on Monday - just hours before Cabinet decided it was safe to transition Auckland back to level 1. As the individual - who had been isolating for a week - tested positive in a quarantine facility, health officials said the case poses a "very low" public health risk.
With Auckland now officially at alert level 1, here is a refresher on New Zealand's 'new normal' and what it means for Kiwis.
At alert level 1, face coverings must be worn on all forms of public transport, including buses, trains and ferries. Masks are also mandatory on domestic flights.
Taxi drivers or those who work for ride-share companies, such as Uber and Ola, are also required to wear a mask under alert level 1. Although it's not mandatory for passengers, it is strongly recommended.
Wearing a face covering is important as it prevents the spread of droplets when someone speaks, laughs, coughs or sneezes.
Although it's not compulsory, health officials strongly encourage the use of masks in crowded indoor places, such as supermarkets, where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
There are some exemptions, including children under 12 and students on school buses. The full list of exemptions is available here.
Instructions on how to wear a face covering safely are available here.
Border restrictions still remain in place at alert level 1. Anyone who enters New Zealand is required to undergo health screening, regular testing and a mandatory 14-day stay in a managed isolation or quarantine facility.
People who choose to leave New Zealand under alert level 1 are still subjected to the same restrictions upon their return. New Zealand citizens and residents who leave the country and return at a later date are also required to pay for their stay in managed isolation. The 14-day period comes with a $3,100 price tag for the first or only person in a room, plus $950 for each additional adult and $475 for each additional child.
Stay at home when sick
At alert level 1, it's imperative that New Zealanders stay at home when they are sick. As there are no restrictions on gatherings or events, the spread of COVID-19 is easily facilitated. That's why it's crucial that people remain at home if they are unwell.
People who are presenting cold or flu-like symptoms, or symptoms consistent with COVID-19, are urged to stay at home and call their doctor or Healthline (0800 358 5453) to seek advice on arranging a test.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- a dry cough
- sore throat
- aches and pains
- loss of taste or smell
Maintain good hygiene
To ensure New Zealand stays at alert level 1, one of the most basic public health measures people can do is maintain good hand hygiene. Frequently washing and sanitising ensures any viral bacteria picked up from surfaces or from coughing or sneezing isn't transferred to other people. Health officials recommend using soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying thoroughly.
New Zealanders are also urged to cough and sneeze into their elbow or a tissue and keep surfaces, particularly those in communal areas, clean and sanitised to curb any potential spread of viral matter.
Keep your distance
Although social distancing is not required at alert level 1, health officials still recommend maintaining a safe distance from strangers while in public in the event. This will help to minimise the spread of COVID-19 in the event of a community outbreak.
Use the NZ COVID Tracer app
It's important that New Zealand document their locations under alert level 1. A record of movements is crucial to contact tracing in the event of a community outbreak.
Although it's not mandatory, Kiwis are strongly encouraged to use the Government's official NZ COVID Tracer app to track their movements. The app allows users to scan QR codes, which can be found on public transport and in businesses and shops. Manual entries can also be entered for places that do not have a QR code poster.
For people without a smartphone or who are unwilling to use the app, health officials recommend using a diary to detail the location, the time of the visit and who was there.
Public transport operators, workplaces and businesses are legally required to display a NZ COVID Tracer QR code poster.