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Life at Level 2: Will schools be fully open, what about gyms?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will set out more detail on Thursday about what New Zealand will look like when we shift down to Alert Level 2, but there are some things we already know.

Source: istock.com

While the decision whether to move or not won't happen until after Cabinet meets on Monday, tomorrow's announcement will allow people to prepare for when it does.

For starters, the Government's view of Covid-19 at Alert Level 2 will be that the disease is contained, but the risk of community transmission remains.

That's a huge contrast to Level 3 where there is a "high risk" the coronavirus isn't under control, which is largely why many aspects of the country still feel under lockdown, or at least have strict regulations in place.

But at Alert Level 2, according to the guidelines published on the Government's Covid-19 website, those things start to change.

STAY HOME

The message moves from "instructed to stay at home", with exceptions for essential movement, to "asked to stay at home where possible".

SOCIAL DISTANCING

While social distancing is still enforced, the range drops from two metres to one metre. Socialising also gets a further boost with the return of gatherings - but those are capped at 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors. Gatherings are required to have contact tracing though.

Funerals and tangi can move to these new limits, up from the current maximum of 10 people.

SPORT AND PUBLIC VENUES

The return of gatherings also means the return of recreational activities such as sport. But social distancing enforcement means contact and close-quarters sport such as rugby, netball and basketball may remain off the table - Sport NZ says guidelines are still being developed. Golf and tennis would be the big winners.

Sport NZ adds: Hunting and camping, mountain biking, fishing all allowed. Gyms open.

The return of gatherings also means many public venues can open again as well but they must comply with the capacity caps and undertake public health measures to ensure transmission possibility is as low as possible.

BUSINESS AND WORKING FROM HOME

Most businesses will open again and business premises can be open for staff and customers with appropriate measures in place.

However, where possible, alternative ways of working are still encouraged, such as remote working, shift-based working, physical distancing, staggering meal breaks, and flexible leave.

TRAVEL

Non-essential inter-regional travel is still not advised at Level 2 but is no longer limited to essential workers like it is at Level 3, meaning those with jobs which take them around the country can also return to work.

EDUCATION

Schools and Early Childhood Education centres reopen, with distance learning available for those unable to attend school such as those who are self-isolating. Tertiary institutions can also open.

HEALTH CARE

Normal health and disability care services will operate, though remote consultations will be used wherever possible.

VULNERABLE PEOPLE

Unfortunately, people at high risk of severe illness such as older people and those with existing medical conditions are still encouraged to stay at home if they can, and take additional precautions when leaving home. The Government says people in this category may choose to work.

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Professor Hendy is warning that the true numbers from New Zealand’s Level 3 lockdown will only be known later this week. Source: Breakfast

Move to Alert Level 2 gains momentum, but raises concerns

So will it happen?

Hope for a transition out of Alert Level 3 have risen over the past few days with New Zealand recording zero new coronavirus cases two days in a row followed by just two new cases on Wednesday.

It was also boosted  by comments from Ms Ardern who said consistent zeros aren't the biggest factor in determining when or if New Zealand can move to Level 2.

"It's not just numbers, so we don't have to have zero cases every day in order for us to move to Level 2.

And one expert, Professor Shaun Hendy of the University of Auckland, said this week: "There might still be a few unknown cases out there - once we burst our bubbles those cases can start spreading again. So it does make me a little bit nervous."

Economist Rodney Jones shared those nerves, saying a shift from Alert Level 3 to Level 2 would be "messy" and "an enormously challenging decision" to balance. He said going down a level next Monday "is probably too fast".