Finance Minister Grant Robertson hints at possible length of COVID-19 alert level 3

The Finance Minister has indicated that when the COVID-19 alert level 4 lockdown is lifted and New Zealand is shifted into alert level 3, it could last for two weeks. 

Grant Robertson told Newstalk ZB the Government has used "two week blocks" - hence the four-week lockdown - to guide the alert level system because it follows the time from exposure to the development of symptoms.

"We've used blocks of two weeks because that fits with the way the virus gestates so two week blocks and four week blocks give us an idea of our success in controlling the virus."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has also suggested two weeks, but says the Government will provide an official answer when that time comes, which is expected to be on Monday when Cabinet will confirm if the lockdown is to be extended. 

"We will give an indication of that at the time that we make decisions, and I want to do that in order to really give people a sense... to give them an expectation," she told reporters on Thursday after announcing the alert level 3 guidelines. 

"But you will have seen what we've tended to use are the cycles of transmission, so one cycle is two weeks, two cycles is a month, and so we'll tend to look in blocks that are around cycles transmission, because there's an evidence base behind why we do that, and it can tell us how we're doing as a nation."

Robertson said the Government is eager to shift the country out of lockdown as soon as possible, but said ultimately it's Cabinet's decision. 

"Like all New Zealanders I'm really anxious to move out of level four and return ourselves to a bit of normality but we've got a process to go through," he said. "We've been very methodical and deliberate... and we've got to follow that through."

Under alert level 3, the Prime Minister said roughly a million New Zealanders will be able to return to work, as the rules shift from only essential services allowed to operate to those that can operate safely and follow best practice. 

So far, around $9 billion has been paid out by the Government to subsidise the wages of more than a million Kiwis, and that's part of a $20 billion package to get the country through this - billions borrowed with billions more expected in the coming months.  

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
  • 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
  • You can read more about expanding your bubble here, the activities you're allowed to do here, and what alert level 2 would look like here