COVID-19: Alert level 3 restrictions - a refresher on what Aucklanders can and can't do

Auckland is back in lockdown for a preliminary seven-day period after an active case of COVID-19 visited several locations while they were infectious. 

In a bid to curb the spread of the virus, the Government decided to shift the region back to alert level 3 restrictions after less than a week at alert level 1. As the current outbreak is confined to Auckland, the rest of New Zealand is able to operate at level 2.

Auckland endured three days at alert level 3 just two weeks ago when the first cases in the cluster, a Papatoetoe High School student and their parents - also known as Case A, B and C - were announced on Sunday, February 14.

With the closure of customer-facing businesses and a return to socially-distanced supermarkets, here is a refresher on life at alert level 3


At alert level 3, Aucklanders are legally required to remain within their household bubble. This means that unless you are required to self-isolate, you are able to spend time with the people who share your place of residence. 

Adding people to your bubble

Under level 3, a household bubble can be expanded to include close family and whānau, caregivers or isolated people who need support. However, social visitors - such as friends and extended family and whānau - should not be allowed to enter your home.

If anyone within the bubble begins to feel unwell or develop flu-like symptoms consistent with COVID-19, they are legally required to self-isolate from everyone else.

Gatherings and events

When outside the home, whether it be at a supermarket, pharmacy or workplace, physical distancing is required. In public and retail stores, health officials recommend maintaining a two-metre distance between yourself and others. While in controlled environments such as schools or workplaces, 1 metre is sufficient.

Social gatherings and events are prohibited. Wedding services and funerals and tangihanga are permitted under alert level 3, but only a maximum of 10 people can attend. Physical distancing and public health measures must legally be maintained.

Public venues

Public venues - such as libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds and markets - are legally required to close and cannot be attended by the public.

Face coverings

Face coverings are compulsory on public transport and domestic flights, including for taxi drivers or those who work for ride-share companies, such as Uber. Passengers are not required to wear a mask, however it is encouraged.

Masks are also recommended in situations where physical distancing is not always possible, like in supermarkets.

For more advice on face coverings, click here.

Exercise and recreation

According to the Government's alert level framework, low-risk recreation and exercise are encouraged under alert level 3. However, recreational activities must either be performed alone or with people in your bubble, and should only take place within your local area. People are also advised to social distance and wear a mask.

Under alert level 3, surfing, tramping, mountain biking, swimming and horse-riding are all permitted activities - as long as you are experienced and stay safe and local.

Swimming at the beach

A lot of Aucklanders will be beelining to their local beach during level 3 to walk and get fresh air. Swimming at the beach is also acceptable, as long as people head to safe, local spots. Aucklanders are urged not to take risks that could result in rescue services breaking their bubble. 

As with all recreational activities and exercise, keen swimmers must stick to their local area. If you want to swim, go to your nearest beach - not your favourite one.

If you are kayaking, canoeing, rowing, surfing, windsurfing or paddleboarding, you must say within 200 metres from the shore.

Flying manned aircraft, hunting in motorised vehicles, water-based activities such as scuba diving, sailing and operating motorised boats or other craft like jet skis are prohibited, as well as any team sports or training.

For more information on exercise and recreation, click here.

Workplaces and businesses

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 under alert level 3, health officials encourage staff who are able to work from home to do so. Hospitality businesses can continue to operate as a takeaway service as long as social distancing is maintained and contactless delivery or pick-up is implemented. Any businesses that require close physical contact, such as retail stores, must close.

Businesses are required to display a QR code linked to the NZ COVID Tracer app and have an alternative contact tracing system.

Unless the business is a supermarket, dairy, butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer, petrol station, pharmacy or permitted health service, customers cannot enter the premises.

Any businesses that can operate must legally offer contactless service and payment options. 

Basic hygiene measures legally must be observed, including physical distancing, hand washing and regularly sanitising surfaces. Workers are legally required to stay at home if they are sick.

Staff must remain a minimum 1-metre distance at all times where it is practical. Other measures, such as PPE - including face coverings - are recommended.

Different advice applies to essential healthcare workers, border agencies, courts and tribunal staff, first responders and corrections staff. You can get further advice from the Ministry of Health here.