Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that - bar Auckland - the nation will enter Alert Level 2 from 11.59pm on Tuesday, but will need to follow a new set of rules the Government believe are necessary to eliminate the Delta variant.
New 'Delta Level 2' rules:
In the new 'Delta Level 2', face coverings must be worn inside public venues, indoor and outdoor gatherings must have limited numbers, while scanning has become mandatory in a variety of venues including bars, restaurants, cinemas, nightclubs, churches, concerts, and close-contact businesses like hairdressers.
"As I’ve said many times, Delta has changed the game, so in order to beat it, we’ve had to adapt our gameplan too," Ardern announced at a press conference on Monday afternoon.
Ardern said that while scanning was not legally required everywhere under the new rules, it was still strongly advised to do so in order to track down any potential Covid-19 spread and limit the number and duration of lockdowns.
The Prime Minister noted the rules reflected the increased possibility of transmission from the Delta variant.
"We are much more worried about big groups of people. It’s now no longer whether you have enough space between you and others but rather if there are too many people in a shared space generally, with poor ventilation, really ups the risk."
Indoor gatherings, hospitality settings and event venues have now been limited to just 50 people, while outdoor gatherings are now limited to 100 people. In any setting, groups must be socially distanced by at least two metres.
Finally, public venues such as gyms, libraries and museums have seen their social distancing limit increased from one metre to two metres, in line with retail shops and supermarkets.
"It’s a quick alignment that we believe in a Delta environment makes sense," Ardern said.
While the drop in alert levels would be welcome news to much of the country, Ardern warned New Zealand had not yet finished the job.
"We’ve done so well to get this outbreak under control. Level 4 restrictions are working but the job is not done. We’re within sight of elimination but we cannot drop the ball."