Auckland to remain under Level 3 lockdown restrictions until Sunday evening, rest of NZ stays at Level 2

Anna Whyte
Source: 1News

Auckland will remain at Covid-19 Alert Level 3 until late Sunday, the Prime Minister announced today. 

It means an extension from Wednesday - with the city to move to Level 2 at 11.59pm, Sunday August 30, with restrictions still remaining on mass gatherings. 

"From midnight on Sunday: schools, hospitality, retail and those entities that are able to operate at Level 2 all reopen," Jacinda Ardern said. 

"We will keep a limit on mass gatherings, and that means groups of no more than 10, with the exception of tangihanga and funerals."

The rest of the country will remain at Alert Level 2 until Sunday, September 6.

The nationwide Alert Level 2 restrictions outside of Auckland will again be reviewed before this date, Ms Ardern said.

Jacinda Ardern said it was what Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield recommended, and what Cabinet had agreed to. 

"This has been a hard year," Ms Ardern said. "So if it feels hard right now, it's because it is."

"In a world where 2020 has frankly been terrible, we have been strong, we have been kind and we are doing really well."

The reasoning behind keeping the rest of New Zealand at Alert Level 2 was due to regional travel in and out of Auckland. 

"If we want the economic benefit of regional travel, the trade-off is keeping in place the social distancing and mass gathering limits that help keep everyone safe in the meantime.

"It’s a finely balanced decision, but the right one I believe when interregional borders just don’t work when the restrictions start reducing."

Ms Ardern also announced masks would be mandatory from Monday on all public transport. 

"This isn’t a decision we took lightly.

"But we know that masks protect you, and the people around you, and we now have a real-life example of that."

"They limit the chance of Covid-19 spreading in places where it is often harder to distance yourself, and to trace people."

There was  eight new Covid-19 cases  in the community today, made up of seven confirmed and one probable case. 

“If it weren’t for Level 3, this cluster would have been exponential," Ms Ardern said of the recent community-based cluster in Auckland. 

Ms Ardern said it was a contained cluster, but also the biggest one, warning more cases would come. 

Auckland has been at Alert Level 3 and the rest of the country Level 2 since August 12 - with the Prime Minister saying at the time those levels would remain until Wednesday, August 26.

With only six new cases, Jacinda Ardern says there is no need to escalate levels.

Cabinet met last week to review the progress made on the Auckland cluster. 

"There is nothing to suggest we need to change our course and nothing that suggests we need to escalate our response, but at this stage we need to stay the course and retain the setting we have for now," Ms Ardern after the meeting. 

On Thursday, Health Minister Chris Hipkins said the review would look at what they know about the cluster, the contact tracing around the cluster, test results across the community and the results of testing from the border. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said a key aspect to factor in when considering alert levels was the amount of testing around the rest of the country, to give a picture of whether Covid-19 had spread outside Auckland.