Jacinda Ardern has revealed why the COVID-19 alert level 3 rules are so strict.
The Prime Minister and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced on Thursday that under alert level 3, New Zealanders would be able to go swimming and fishing at the beach, restaurants will be able to open for takeaways and schools will partially reopen.
But some New Zealanders have been surprised the new rules will still be very restrictive.
Ardern says the new measures need to be strict so new daily cases don't increase when New Zealanders have more freedom.
"There are promising signs our 'go hard and go early' elimination strategy is working and the lockdown is breaking the chain of community transmission. Any move to level 3 cannot put those gains at risk," she said.
"The whole goal of level 3 is actually to maintain and keep improving. So it'll lose nothing we have gained from level 4 and that's why it's so critical that we make the right decision at the right time."
"Level 3 isn't about tolerating any increases, it's about can we then move, have some slight lessening but then maintain and keep the gains we've already had."
Ardern says level 3 is a progression and the Government will not rush to get the country back to normality.
It is possible Aotearoa could move back to alert level 4 from level 3 if the situation with the virus worsens under the new rules.
"This is why we call level 3 the 'recovery room'. This is where we hold, we see if we are really well and whether or not we can keep moving."
Dr Bloomfield and Ardern pointed out the range of factors to be considered for changing the alert level, whether that is going up or down.
"The primary factors are, are we seeing that exponential growth that tells us that you've lost control? Are we seeing indicators of widespread community transmission? Are we seeing in particular regions with any of those signs as well?" Ardern said.
"And then we look at all of those things that help you maintain where you are, contact tracing and the scale of contact tracing, effectiveness of isolation and quarantine measures. Those are all things we factor into our decision making."
On Thursday it was announced New Zealand had 15 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the nation's total to 1401.
There were no new deaths to report which meant the COVID-19 death toll stayed at nine.