Government reveals three-step 'roadmap' out of lockdown restrictions for Auckland

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has set out a roadmap for Auckland to carefully move out of current Covid-19 restrictions (first published October 4).

The Government’s “roadmap” to incrementally reduce lockdown restrictions in Auckland will allow people to meet outdoors, and the reopening of retail shops, hospitality venues and schools.

The three-step plan was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday, as Auckland entered its eighth week of lockdown, and the Government struggles to eliminate the persistent spread of the Delta strain of Covid-19.

“These changes are unlikely to contribute to uncontrolled growth in the outbreak, but we will monitor the situation very carefully to give us confidence as we move,” Ardern said.

Cabinet had decided Auckland would move to the “first step” from 11:59pm on Tuesday. Under this step, outdoor “catch-ups” would be allowed in groups of 10 people from no more than two households.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has produced a “roadmap” out of Covid-19 restrictions for Auckland. (file photo)
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has produced a “roadmap” out of Covid-19 restrictions for Auckland. (file photo)

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“The natural ventilation provided by being outside makes it hard for the virus to spread, which makes outdoor gatherings the safest option,” Ardern said.

Early childhood education centres will reopen, but there will be a limit of 10 children in a bubble, and teachers will need to be tested for Covid-19.

Recreation around the city, such as going to the beach and bowls can resume. Funerals attended by 10 people will be allowed.

Under the second step, public facilities such as libraries, pools and zoos will be able to reopen, as will retail shops. Cafés and food courts will be able to offer takeaway services. The numbers limit on outdoor gatherings and funerals will increase to 25 people.

A drive through vaccination centre in Papakura, Auckland. (file photo)
Ricky Wilson/Stuff
A drive through vaccination centre in Papakura, Auckland. (file photo)

Under step three, hospitality venues, hairdressers and other “close contact businesses” will be able to be opened with a 50-person limit. Indoor gatherings will be permitted.

This third step would be, in effect, a more stringent Covid-19 alert level 2. Throughout, the border around Auckland would remain and be routinely reviewed by the Government.

“We do not have a date for these [second and third] steps, but we will make an assessment of our readiness to step into them on a weekly basis, starting from next Monday,” Ardern said.

“At the conclusion of this three-stage transition period, we will likely move to a framework that reflects a more vaccinated population, and the ability to use vaccine certificates as a tool in the near future to reduce the risk of the virus spreading, especially in crowded indoor settings.”

This new framework of restrictions would be produced by the Government next week, she said.

The remainder of New Zealand will continue to operate in alert level 2, however a limit of 100 people at seated indoor venues, but not social gatherings, will be removed.

“I know it's frustrating for communities, such as those in the South Island, that have not had a Covid case for a very long time, but it's important to remember that the reason there have not been cases is the careful and cautious approach we've taken, and we don't want to risk unnecessary lockdowns.”

The resumption of schools in Auckland was due to occur at the end of the school holidays on October 18.

When schools reopen, students in years nine to 13 will be required to wear face coverings, as will staff. Students who live in an alert level 2 region will be able to travel to an alert level 3 area to attend school.

The reduction in restrictions in Auckland will not alter the current Covid-19 level 3 restrictions currently in place for much of Waikato. The wage subsidy would still be available to businesses in Auckland.

The “roadmap” resembles an Australian-style response to the ongoing spread of the Delta variant, which the Government has failed to eliminate.The daily tally of new cases has fluctuated between eight and 45 cases in the past week.

But worsening the situation was spillage of the virus across the Auckland border at the weekend. Two cases identified in Waikato, one in Raglan and another in Hamilton, had Ardern place much of the region in a Covid-19 alert level 3 lockdown.