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Level 1: Gathering and distancing restrictions go, people encouraged to return to their offices, more border exemptions expected

Level 1: Gathering and distancing restrictions go, people encouraged to return to their offices, more border exemptions expected
Jacinda Ardern. Getty Images.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed all social distancing rules and mass gathering restrictions will go under Level 1, but contact tracing, the border closure and the encouragement of good hygiene will stay.

Cabinet will on Monday decide when the country will move to Level 1. The shift could happen as early as mid-next week.

Ardern confirmed that under Level 1, bars and restaurants will no longer have to keep customers separated and seated. Those who fly or use public transport won’t need to be separated either, as all distancing restrictions will be lifted.

Rebooting retail and hospo with people returning to offices  

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said: “Personally, I want to see as many people as possible back into the Wellington CBD to make sure we support the retailers who are here.”

Robertson said Level 1 was largely “situation normal” and he expected most government agencies to have their staff back in offices then.

Asked by interest.co.nz whether he could instruct those in the public sector to return to their offices to support economic activity in town/city centres, Robertson said that was a matter for the State Services Commission. 

Interest.co.nz has asked the Commission what guidance it will provide agencies around working at Level 1. At Level 2, it encouraged a gradual return to offices/workplaces. 

Border exemptions expected to increase

Ardern said she expected the number of exemptions made to enable people to enter New Zealand from overseas for business reasons, to grow. However, she couldn’t provide a ballpark figure around this growth.

Those working on a new Avatar film are among the 201 people who have been given permission to enter the country on economic grounds. Ardern said others include people with specialist skills, such as those fixing Wellington’s wastewater issues, as well as aviation and chairlift operating specialists.

She said the Government had to ensure there was an avenue to get workers in if the alterative was hundreds of job losses or infrastructure projects coming to a halt.

Sectors simply wanting to access offshore labour markets, were unlikely to meet the criteria.

“There are a number of specialised areas where those expertise do sit offshore. It will be individuals often who come in for a short period of time often, then leave,” Ardern said.

A further 2,153 individuals have been granted permission to enter New Zealand, mostly on humanitarian grounds or to be reunited with family. 

While all those who enter the country will go into government-managed quarantine facilities, Avatar film crew members were reportedly seen wandering around the luxury QT Hotel in central Wellington (where they were quarantined in-part at their own expense) with regular guests over the weekend.

Asked by interest.co.nz why these workers from the US weren’t quarantined somewhere more isolated, Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford, who was responsible for allowing the film workers into the country, said the Ministry of Health was responsible for quarantine arrangements.

Twyford said the process of him signing off on exemptions to let certain people into the country for economic purposes was an interim measure. He said Cabinet was expected to consider a paper in coming weeks on a “more fundamental rethink of the border settings, particularly as we anticipate the trans-Tasman bubble and a gradual opening up”.

National: Process lacks transparency

National's economic development spokesperson Judith Collins criticised the Government for not publicising these border exemptions, with the issue only coming to light after the arrival of the film crew.

“The Government now needs to be upfront on what the criteria are," Collins said.

“Crucially, if economic grounds are a criteria then we need the Minister to explain why the America’s Cup teams are still waiting on their visas.

“The America’s Cup will provide significant economic contributions to New Zealand’s economy over the coming year of up to $1 billion, and create more than 8000 jobs...

“The Minister said in the House yesterday that his border exemption regime was “case-by-case”. This simply isn’t good enough and appears to be a case of the Minister picking favourites."

Level 1 rules 

Ardern said the rules for Level 1 were:

  1. Stay home if you're sick
  2. Get tested if you have cold or flu-like symptoms
  3. Wash your hands regularly
  4. Regularly disinfect surfaces. Sneeze and cough into your elbow
  5. Self-isolate immediately if you’re told to do so by health authorities
  6. Consult your GP if you have health issues
  7. Keep track of where you've been and who you've seen
  8. Businesses should help people keep track of their movements by displaying the Ministry of Health’s QR code for contact tracing
  9. Stay vigilant and be prepared to step up alert levels if needed
  10. Be kind to others and yourself

While Level 1 will largely be a return to normal, Ardern cautioned: “The war doesn't end so long as COVID is still around the world.”

National leader Todd Muller said the Government needed to make a call on when the country moves to Level 1 now, not on Monday.

“Every day the Government waits to make this shift is another day that businesses sink deeper into debt and the economic crisis in this country worsens," he said.

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44 Comments

14
up

Is the warrantless property entry dropped under kindness level one?

No, thats at 3 months, JA was wanting 2 years for that one!

Sounds like only another 12 PR announcements then till Level1, I repeat for those who just joined in reading this, just 12 more......

At some point this surely has to start counting as campaign spend for the next election. When does the electoral window open again?

Do these 'rules' equal 'laws', i.e. are they enforceable by law?
A lot of these are simple common sense.... the country isn't full of children

10
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"the country isn't full of children" are you sure? Have you read some of the comments on Interest?

Lol, fair point

having been out and about last couple of weeks where retailers have gone to the trouble of creating standing spots for distance at the tills, markers for flows to keep people apart and watch people not use them until it is explained what they are for what an arrow means i think you over estimate the common sense of many people.

An AirNZ flight staff is boarding in my house, he resumes flying to Los Angeles coming Saturday after a 2 1/2 month break, he does not have to quarantine or self isolate on his return but he is asked to stay a the hotel for the 3 nights he is spending in LA

12
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If that's the case, we won't be staying virus free for too long...

As I understand it, it has been the case all along.

It isn't good. But my understanding is that they don't leave the hotels and they are essentially self isolating

Until they let their guard down and decide to bend the rules just this once...

Correct, so we have to trust that all AirNZ staff don't leave their hotel (they're allowed to go to the lobby and hotel restaurant for 3 days)
I'm not worried about CV personally

What happens when we've got people getting sick again? Who's going to voluntarily put their hand up to get that awful spike up the nose test? Not me. I won't be tarred and feathered with that brush. Then what happens if we have to go into lockdown again? Who's happy to voluntarily spend another 2 months at home? Maybe with no income once the 1.5M workers in the balance are let go. Will we see our own riots and police brutality here when they protest?

This is just the start of the slipperiest slope there is. As the pundits have always said, going into lockdown is easy, it's the getting out that will be hard.

I had the "awful spike up the nose test". Wasn't looking forward to it as I'd heard the moaning about it too.

Meh. Nothing to it. Harden up.

NZ could easily eliminate the virus, if we haven't already done that, and live totally virus free, living without any restriction or masks, or having to physical distance. As soon as we let in travelers, and they aren't quarantined, such as a travel bubble with Australia who still have community transmission in some states, then the risk of us going up a level increase, as does the increased costs involved with that. For example, we could make several hundred million from a movie, but if that 300 people coming in cause a new outbreak, then that cost could be massive. Was possibily 100 billion for the first outbreak. We can only barely afford to eliminate the virus once. If we choose to just suppress the virus, which is Australias policy, then everyone will be living cautiously, and many businesses will not be operating properly, affecting their earnings. Even now, with the economy relatively open again, people are just not living a normal life, even though our restrictions are now some of the most relaxed in the world. I just don;t know what NZs plan moving forward is with opening up the borders. I think the only solution is all incoming people must quarantine, and I can't see a bubble with all of Australia being possible until a vaccine.

I'm with Yvil as I'm personally not concerned about getting sick. But once we get another outbreak, a 2nd lock down would absolutely crush the remaining economy

There has not been a virus in NZ any worse than the common winter flu!!!!!
We should’ve been level 1 any weeks ago and the over reaction has cost New Zealanders far more due to the extended lockdown!
Not one person died that was under 62 years old and wasn’t vulnerable.
During level,4 lockdown 4200 people died of other things, puts this virus into perspective.
We have been badly misled and we are now going to be paying for it in the future by poor leadership over the past few weeks without doubt!

Been to your therapist lately? Just goes to show mental health certainly is a big issue in NZ. The only reason deaths were not rampant was precisely BECAUSE the country was put on lockdown. You friggin armchair facebook and twitter types always second guessing stuff AFTER the fact are such a waste of oxygen in this world.
Obviously you didn't turn on any news about world deaths in the last 2 months.
You must be a trump admirer as well, the toddler in chief.
Why don't you read up on what is happening in Brazil, or the USA, or UK, or any EU country, etc etc etc. All fake news I guess. No time to read because your fingers are twitching at the keyboard?
Lets just go shoot everyone over 62, their lives are obviously not worth anything to you. I presume your parents are dead? or maybe disowned you?
The contributor above who said NZ is not full of children certainly gives one pause to think otherwise.

Wow, check your anger dude.

TM2 is an idiot, someone finally pointed it out instead of just ignoring his posts.

This is the weakest link in the chain as far as I see it.

I think there is an opportunity here to
- Make those involved in the business of flying people in and out extremely segregated from the rest of the population
- Make it worth their while

12-18 months where life is going to be a bit crap for them (plenty of others looking for their jobs at the moment) but government doubles their earnings and puts them up in a quarantine setup when they are on-shore.

Won't work for most with families, or lots of younger ones who want to socialise, but in a world where airline staff are getting laid off all over the place, there will be enough qualified candidates happy to do the hard yards to bank for the future.

Main risk I see is that it sets a dangerous precedent, and other vocations will likely come calling.

Thoughts? :)

Has there been any rational strategy or plan outlined by the government re people coming and going from the country - or is it just a blanket statement of "some will be monitored under quarantine, others not so much" - not much faith.

heard today they are wanting to test those air nz staff when they come in but the problem is getting permission from air nz

As long as people coming into NZ are tested before leaving the country they come from, and are quarantined for 14 days when tehy arrive here, I can't see why having people / tourist come in is going to be an issue, as won't that eliminate any risk ? The whole cause of the problem was that we initially didn't quarantine people, or require people from many countries to even have to self isolate until very late on. Then we didn't have suitable tracing systems.

As long as us tax payers don't have to pick up the quarantine / enforced hotel isolation costs, and it is 100% user pays, I can't see a problem letting people in now. If some people are being let in, and not others, and it is largely subjective over their importance, then it isn't a particularly fair system currently anyway.

Agreed but with some common sense - a boat or plane arriving from a Pacific Island that has no cases shouldn't need quarantine - of course we have to have some mutually agreed method of being certain the Pacific Island is Covid free and implementing its own quarantines.

Pacific islands would be in a travel bubble with NZ if we can eliminate it,. But they would still probably feel nervous about NZ joining this, as we haven't definitely eliminated it yet. This is why NZ should feel nervous about a travel bubble with Oz at the moment. Some states still appear to have community transmission occurring, and they are wanting to open their borders to other states that may have eliminated it. I would doubt pacific islands would want to join a bubble with Oz / NZ, if they still have cases occurring. This virus has the potential to devastate their populations. But there is so much political momentum for this NZ / Oz travel bubble and the media seem to mention it daily, even though it can't likely occur until at least September, unless it is just a few of the states that have eliminated it.

the cook islands pm floated that last night that along with the other virus free islands , nuie samoa they could open to nz at level one.
But WP has made up some BS as he wants to open to aussie and therefore because they still have the virus we can not open to the islands and not transmit it to them.
we now have fight between JA whom is saying no to aussie until you are free of the virus or can prove those that come here are free of it and WP who wants to open the border now

they announced today that all arriving people will be tested from Monday, i thought this was already practice but they were still only testing those with symptoms, so am amazed we managed to keep it out,

Those people that weren't tested still had to spend 14 days in a hotel room, under enforced isolation, so that should catch most of the cases. The test isn't all that accurate anyway, especially if one isn't showing symptoms. So it isn't a silver bullet.

The pcr test is extremely accurate and that's what they're using. You might be thinking of the antibody tests being developed and rolled out?

they were only temp checked at the border then temp checked every two days by health staff whilst in isolation, it is quite lucky we never had a asymptomatic carrier get out and about.
and also the border staff do not get tested only temp checked once a week

15
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If the story about the Avatar film crew mingling with general population while under quarantine is true, heads must roll. It is unforgivable.

whoever was wandering around should be on the next plane back to whatever infested shithole they came from, and the rest of them told the movie will be shut down if anyone else is seen out, movie be damned, and if Mr Cameron is so keen to get it filmed he can take it to the states and do it. 2 chances of that happening. 'rant over'....

10
up

todd muller,david seymour and WP,all pushing for level 1 a week early,hoping to claim in some small way part of the credit for defeating the virus.success has many fathers but failure is an orphan.

and if we went early and cases started to appear those same people would decry the government for allowing covid to come back
they can make as much noise as they like because they dont have to suffer the consequences

Much like Bridges getting out 2 hours ahead of official announcements to call for what he knew was about to be announced.

And look how well it went for him

if we keep it out -- less ability to impose martial law and fear across teh community - less ability to self promote - less ability to restrict and curfew people -- and it will be years before Europe or America is 0 cases -- if ever -- so we cant isolate for that long -- so either we chose to open up the borders and let covid in - politically unacceptable -- or we let it sneak back in - by inviting a heap of yankee film makers - or maybe not bother with full quarantine for aircrew - just their passengers - after all no way they could infect them during the flight ...

Anybody know if there is a tinfoil hat maker listed on any stock exchange? With the comments hereabouts it sure looks like it'd be a rocksolid investment in a rapidly growing company..

Yep...in politics or life ignorance is not a virtue...(American politician)

Wonder how comfortable people will be in getting close to others, in planes, trains, movie halls, etc. Even an harmless sneeze or cough will set off shares and may be some dislike from others. The business community seems to be driving this early return to normalcy. Not sure whether the Government is now quickly going to the other extreme.

This was an easy problem to see coming even when they panicked and went to level 4. What happens when/if you eliminate the virus, there is no way to open the border to countries effectively if there is any virus there. Can you afford the costs of not being open. No one will want to go back to level 4 when the subsidies run out and you can't add 30% GDP/debt every time an outbreak occurs. The PM has put the health crisis above the economic crisis but that won't fly so well when unemployment is north of 10% and the country is looking at 100 years to repay the costs of prolonging lives. Because ultimately this is what governments must do, otherwise why not double the health budget every year for the next hundred years as more marginal lives would be prolonged. Why, because the cost outweighs the benefit to society and the economy would collapse causing the opposite effect on prolonging lives.
In wartime you sacrifice some lives to preserve/protect the freedom and prosperity of society at large, this doesn't seem like a good comparison.

Anyways, looking at the increase in stabbings and shootings in Auckland, it seems that we are already in Level 0.

Days to the General Election: 20
See Party Policies here. Party Lists here.