Masks are set to be the new norm for life outside Auckland under Alert Level 2 from 11:59pm Tuesday, with face coverings now required in public venues like libraries and retail stores.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday clarified if you're visiting a restaurant, bar, gym or church, masks aren't required but are encouraged.
They’re a legal requirement for front-facing staff.
“In general though, if you're around people you don't know, it is a good idea to wear a mask as much as possible,” Ardern said.
University of Otago primary health and general practice senior lecturer Lesley Gray said masks not being required inside gyms and eateries when not eating, drinking and exercising and only being encouraged at the premises will be confusing for some people and she expects further clarification from the Ministry of Health.
"I think that just risks people not knowing when they should or should not wear them," she said.
"My advice to anyone is when you’re out and about generally and when you’re going into and in any indoor environment, keep that mask on.
"You should only take your mask off if you are exercising or if you are in a restaurant or bar where you are seated at your physically distanced table and you’ve already gone through your contact details and everything, then you may take your mask off."
She said people should also put their mask on when they’re ready to leave the table after they’ve finished their meal or drink, or if they’re going to the bathroom.
"There are some issues about people who are exercising and what a mask does to your air intake and it can make exercise harder – that’s a bit of a difficult one because I wouldn’t like to see 50 people exercising hard in an environment without wearing masks, so I guess that’s a risk that people that go to gyms have just got to weigh up for themselves," Gray said.
The public health academic advised people to exercise outside if possible instead.
Masks are strongly recommended for school staff and students aged 12 and over.
Year 9 student Eyalla Tuipulotu said she would wear a mask if everyone was wearing them at school but otherwise wouldn’t choose to as she found them annoying to wear.
Her mum, Claire Tuipulotu, said it’s the right choice for masks to be optional for students.
"Some find it hard to breathe, some find it hard to be heard," she said.
Not everyone can afford to comply with the Alert Level 2 mask rules though, with charities like the Compassion Soup Kitchen giving out face coverings with their daily meals to help those in need.
"We had one dude show up, he was saying, 'Look, I can't wear face masks 'cause I can't afford them, they cost a dollar a pop and I just don't have that kind of money', so we straight away just gave him a box and said, ‘Look, go ahead and make sure you wear them,'" Compassion Soup Kitchen manager Gary Sutton said.