The coronavirus alert level 4 lockdown will finish in New Zealand in one week as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the nation will shift into the lighter alert level 3.
The change will happen at 11:59pm on Monday, April 27, and that will continue for two weeks, allowing roughly half a million people to return to work, as long as they can exercise physical distancing and help to reduce COVID-19 from spreading.
It comes as the Ministry of Health reported just nine new cases of the virus in New Zealand on Monday, bringing the total to 1440, and no change to the death toll of 12.
The Prime Minister announced Cabinet's decision on Monday and said once alert level 3 is in place, it will be reviewed again with the decision to move into alert level 2 on May 11.
"Going hard and early to stamp out the virus, backed by an effort of 5 million New Zealanders to break the chain of transmission, means together we have helped stop the uncontrolled explosion of COVID-19 in New Zealand," Ardern said.
The Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said he is confident there is currently no widespread undetected community transmission in New Zealand, which played into Cabinet's decision about the lockdown.
"Cabinet wanted to make sure we lock in our gains, give ourselves some additional certainty, but take no more than two additional business days to do this before we restart our economy again," Ardern said.
At alert level 3, key sectors will return to work, such as construction, manufacturing and forestry, and Kiwis will be able to order takeout food online. But you will not be able to go to the gym, get a haircut or go out on your boat.
A reminder of the principles for level 3
- If you are not at work, school, exercising or getting essentials, then you must be at home
- Work and learn from home if you can
- Make your business COVID-19 safe
- Stay regional and exercise at parks or beaches within your region
- Keep your bubble as small as possible but expand it if you need to
- Keep practising good hygiene such as washing your hands often with soap
- If you are sick stay at home and seek advice from your GP or Healthline about getting a test
"At level 3 we need to be even more vigilant and we must stick to the rules, continue to reduce contact and keep breaking the chain of transmission," Ardern said.
"And remember that we remain at level 4 until you wake up next Tuesday. Let's stick with our plan and the mission we have. Stay strong, stay home, let's finish what we started."
Under alert level 3, children who can stay home should stay home, the Government has advised, and at-risk students and staff should also stay home, and will be supported to do so.
Early learning centres and schools will physically be open for up to year 10 for families that need them, and people will be allowed to enter schools and early learning centres from Tuesday, April 21, for cleaning, maintenance and other preparations to re-open.
The Government expects most children who need to attend school to be able to do so from April 29, but it may take longer for some schools and early learning centres to be open.
Alert level 3: What you can and can't do
- You are allowed to expand your 'bubble'
- Bars, cafes and restaurants closed
- Food delivery services available
- Travel still restricted to your local area
- You can swim and fish from the shore but cannot go out on a boat
- Public transport only allowed for travel to work or school
- Public venues remain closed
- Gatherings of up to 10 people allowed for weddings and funerals
- Retails stores to remain shut
- Employees asked to work from home if possible
- Kids can return to school if their parents need to go to work
- You still cannot go to the gym or get a haircut