Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern announces three-stage roadmap for easing Auckland's alert level restrictions

The government has set out a three-stage roadmap that gradually eases COVID-19 restrictions in Auckland.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the government will take a careful, methodical approach to the changes.

From midnight tomorrow, Tāmaki Makaurau will remain in alert level 3 but Aucklanders will be able to connect with people outside their bubble outdoors, with no more than two households and ten people mingling at a time.

Early childhood education will return as normal and people can move around Auckland for recreation, like visiting the beach or hunting.

At the second stage, retail shops can open with face masks and social distancing, public facilities such as pools and zoos will open and number of people who can meet outdoors will increase to 25.

Hospitality venues will open at the third stage, seating people at a distance with a maximum capacity of 50 people.

Public health advice at this stage also indicates schools will be able to return after the school holidays on the 18 October - with a final decision to be made closer to the time.

Cabinet has agreed the rest of New Zealand will remain at alert level 2 - with the only change being the 100 person limit in hospitality venues removed.

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty Images

She describes step 3 as higher risk. Hospitality will open - seated, separated and with a limit of 50; close contact businesses like hairdressers will also open with mask use and physical distancing; and gatherings will also then extend to 50.

"Cabinet will review each step weekly to ensure it's safe to move before confirming the next step. The wage subsidy will continue to be available.

"In total, this phasing amounts to a careful and methodical transition plan for Auckland. At the end of these steps, we will then move to a national framework that reflects a more highly vaccinated population, allowing us the ability to deal with riskier settings such as large-scale events with the use of vaccine certificates."

"Today we hit the milestone of 2 million New Zealanders vaccinated. It follows the doubling of Auckland vaccination rates over the past 7 weeks, with 84 percent of Aucklanders having had one dose, and 52 percent now fully vaccinated. But there is more work to do.

"Vaccines were always going to change the way we manage COVID-19 into the future, but our strategy has worked and will remain - we want to control the virus, avoid cases and hospitalisations, enjoy our freedoms, and reconnect with the world," Ardern said.