NZ businesses, schools to reopen in next stage of COVID-19 restrictions

By Shannon Jenkins

Thursday May 7, 2020


New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed what level two restrictions would look like for the country ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Monday.

Ardern on Thursday said Cabinet’s next move would recognise the social and economic impact of restrictions, without compromising “all of the gains that we have made”.

In announcing the framework for level two restrictions, she asserted that NZ would remain at level three until a formal decision was made.

Under level two, businesses would be permitted to reopen for staff and for customers. Office spaces would also reopen, but with good hygiene practices in place.

However, Ardern encouraged businesses to consider “the productivity gains of staggered start times, less congestion, and working from home”.

“Each business can work out its own situation. There is flexibility there. What is non-negotiable though is key basic hygiene practices,” she said.

For those who cannot work from home, such as cleaners, hairdressers, retail stores, cafes, restaurants, and hospitality, would resume under level two.

Retail stores must implement physical distancing for staff and customers, and must have good hygiene practices. Large retailers and malls should limit the number of people in store to ensure physical distancing.

Jobs conducted in close proximity to customers, such as hairdressers and beauticians, should wear personal protective equipment.

Ardern said hospitality businesses should follow the following guide:

  1. People must be seated. No venue, regardless of size, can have more than 100 people at once.
  2. People must be separated, with social distancing implemented between people and tables. Ardern acknowledged “that this may mean for some it is not economical to open, but that is up to each venue”.
  3. Each table must have a single server, with table service only.

The NZ government has been working on a “nationwide technological fix” to help businesses record who enters their premises, the PM said.

“This is likely to include QR codes but in the meantime manual or basic digital recording will be used, which was being done by venues before we moved up alert levels,” she said.

Businesses that don’t comply with the new guidelines will be shut down, Ardern warned.

Public venues such as museums and markets would also reopen, but they must follow social distancing and hygiene measures.

At level 2, indoor and outdoor gatherings would be limited to a maximum of 100 people, including for events like weddings, music gigs, religious services, and funerals.

However, individuals would no longer need to stay in their “bubble”, and would be permitted to see family and friends, so long as they consider “space, hygiene, and contact tracing”. Visits to homes would be allowed, but with limits on the number of people in a house at a time, Ardern said.

“This is not the time for a large party or function at your home. We will providing more specific guidance on this in the coming days,” she said.

Strangers should stay 2 metres apart, but slightly less would be permitted in workplaces, or between people who know each other.

Domestic travel would resume under level two, but people must distance themselves on public transport, and at airports. The border would remain closed.

Playgrounds, gyms, pools, and public courts would be permitted to reopen, and all water activities, including sailing and motorised boating could resume.

Professional sport — without the crowds — would resume domestically, with the necessary public health measures in place.

On education, the PM noted early learning services, schools, and tertiary education facilities would open.

“Distance learning is available for those unable to attend school, for example those who are self-isolating, because of potential contact with COVID,” she said.

Education facilities with a confirmed or “probable” case of COVID-19 would be forced to close on an individual or group basis for 72 hours, to allow for contact tracing, and then for a further 14 days if required.

Ardern described level two as NZ’s “safer normal”, but “not a return to business as usual”. Public health measures would remain unchanged.

For example, people who are sick must stay at home, and those with any symptoms should get tested.

Ardern reminded the public to continue thoroughly washing their hands often, and to wash all high-touch surfaces regularly.

“And don’t pass other people your phone,” she added.

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