COVID-19: Grieving Aucklanders now able to leave region for funerals or to farewell dying relatives

Grieving Aucklanders have been handed a reprieve thanks to the shift down in alert levels, with many now eligible to cross the regional boundary to attend funerals or farewell their dying relatives.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced the change at the 1pm COVID-19 press conference from the Beehive on Tuesday.

It means immediate family members of the deceased or dying person will be able to apply for special exemptions from the Ministry of Health to visit them.

"One area that we will be allowing one-off journeys is for people to attend funerals, attend to and visit a dying relative, or accompany a tūpāpaku or deceased person," Dr Bloomfield told media.

"I know that not being able to do these farewells has been one of the toughest and most distressing aspects of alert level 4." 

But there are still strict criteria, Dr Bloomfield says.

Anyone who applies for the exemption must be a first-degree relative - a parent, child, sibling, partner or close whanau member - and the visit must involve limited numbers and be restricted to immediate family.

All those leaving Auckland also need to return a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of crossing the border, and be required to present evidence alongside their application - such as documents from a funeral director, hospice or health professional.

Social distancing and mask regulations must also be adhered to.

The change comes after the Government promised to consider loosening the rules around funerals and burials at alert level 4 earlier this month to address inconsistencies grieving families and funeral directors wanted changed.

The Government also made changes earlier in the Delta outbreak allowing families to view bodies at funeral homes.