COVID-19: Confusion over toilet rule after Deputy PM Grant Robertson contradicts Government advice on outdoor gatherings

Aucklanders woke up with slightly more freedom on Wednesday but there is some confusion over what those freedoms are. 

On Monday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Auckland will remain in alert level 3 but there are several new changes. 

Ardern also revealed a roadmap for Auckland to slowly move out of the current COVID-19 restrictions.

The three-step approach saw Aucklanders gain slightly more freedom today with people now able to connect with loved ones but only outdoors. No more than two households can gather at a time and there is a maximum of 10 people. Early childhood education will also resume and people can move around the city for activities such as beach visits, hunting and lawn bowls. 

But it seems there is some confusion over the rules. On Tuesday Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson told The AM Show people who are visiting friends can enter their homes to use the bathroom but they need to do it one at a time. 

"Obviously we want people to stay outside. That's the whole point of this is that the public health advice that we've had is that COVID outside is a totally different thing than COVID indoors where you don't have ventilation," he said. 

"Of course, we want it to be a practical situation, I think as Dr Bloomfield said yesterday we are not expecting there to be gatherings of people in the toilet but if people need to go no doubt they will manage that situation.

"The critical element here is that the focus of these gatherings is outdoors. That allows us to give Aucklanders a little bit of respite but not compromise our public health approach."

But advice on the Government's Unite Against COVID-19 website contradicts that stating: "You can, for example, invite people from another household over for dinner in your backyard, but they cannot enter your house".

A statement sent to RNZ by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) also contradicts the Deputy Prime Minister saying people must stay outdoors at all times when gathering. 

"Visitors cannot go into your house at all. If you have visitors they can meet in your garden or in a public outdoor space. The important thing is that your gathering of 10 people is outdoors to reduce the ability of the virus to transmit. This includes walking through a house to access the backyard or use the bathroom facilities." 

Newshub contacted the Prime Minister's office on Tuesday seeking clarification of the rules but is yet to hear back. 

Aucklanders could soon see more freedoms if step 2 of the plan goes ahead next week. 

Step 2 will see retail stores open their doors, with the usual measures of wearing face masks and keeping up physical distancing. Public facilities such as pools and zoos will also open and the number of people who can meet outdoors will increase to 25. 

Step 3 will see higher risk settings such as hospitality open but there is a limit of 50 people who must be seated and separated.  

Newshub sought clarification from Robertson’s office about the toilet rule, who said to check with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC). 

DPMC told Newshub using toilets inside someone's home is not allowed during outdoor gatherings. 

"You cannot enter a person’s home if you are visiting their property, including to use the toilet. Your visit must be kept outdoors."