'Disappointment' but 'understanding' from hospitality sector over keeping Auckland at COVID-19 alert level 2

While the rest of the country can celebrate dropping to alert level 1 from midnight on Monday, there's disappointment in Auckland as the nation's largest city will stay at level 2.5 until Wednesday night, and then level 2 for a fortnight.

The move down half a level will make little difference to comedy club The Classic in Auckland central, because while limits on group sizes rise to 100, guests must still be seated and separated, with a single server.

"We were hoping that if we went to level 1 this week we'd be back up to our full capacity because we're really busy on the weekends," said director Scott Blanks.

Blanks said he is "disappointed" about the decision to keep Auckland under the restrictions, but he said "we've understood the reasons why".

Cabinet has decided to keep Auckland at level 2.5 until midnight on Wednesday, followed by at least two weeks at level 2, while the rest of the country shifts to level 1 overnight on Monday.

"We take a more cautious approach. That means if you do see a case emerge, that we're in a better position to stamp it out," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said during her press conference on Monday.

But a more cautious approach might just be what the doctor ordered for Ardern herself after she was snapped last week in Palmerston North taking selfies with fans.

Earlier the same day, Ardern had a close call when a fan asked for a hug. The Prime Minister told the woman she couldn't and offered to give an elbow bump instead. 

Ardern admits it was a mistake to take a selfie with fans without social distancing.

"In that particular photo I did make a mistake. I should have stepped further forward. I should have asked them to step apart from each other and I acknowledge that," she said.

"She didn't look very worried about a whole group of people around her and selfies going on," said National Party leader Judith Collins.

Caution is important, even at level 2, because there is a 50 percent chance the virus will still be lingering after two weeks.

"Even with those settings until the end of the month there's still a 50-50 chance that we've reached elimination," Ardern said.

For the sectors hardest hit, COVID-19 resurgence - especially with summer around the corner - would be the worst news possible.

"It's huge for us. If we have to lock down in November or December that will be dire," said Blanks.

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Julie White says the removal of the 10-person cap on social gatherings in Auckland is welcomed, but says level 2 is still a constraining environment.

"With the proposed restrictions for Auckland to be reviewed in 14 days' time, this means five weeks of restrictive conditions for our Auckland hospitality operators," White said.

"While we're supportive of the Government in trying to contain the virus with the health and wellbeing of all Kiwis being the number one priority, we do hope Auckland is eased to level 1 very soon."