Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed details of what New Zealand would look like at Alert Level Three, describing it as the “waiting room” en route to a return to a more normal life

The Government has unveiled new guidelines on what life will look like once New Zealand leaves Level 4 lockdown on the coronavirus alert system, with Jacinda Ardern warning the country that people will need to remain disciplined in following the rules.

Bars, restaurants, malls and other businesses with direct customer interactions would remain closed to public access – but they would be allowed to open online services for food delivery, “click and collect” regimes and other contactless transactions.

The overall lens for whether a business could open would move from whether it was essential to whether it was safe, and could follow necessary health and safety standards.

At Level Three, there would be a partial reopening of education facilities, with early childhood education and schools opened for children up to and including Year 10. However, attendance would be purely voluntary with students able to learn from home if their parents wished.

Ardern said the Year 10 limit was set as that was when children were 14 years old or younger – the age at which they cannot be at home without parental supervision.

Universities and other tertiary education institutions would largely stick with distance learning, although some courses involving laboratory work or other hands-on learning could resume provided they were in small groups with physical distancing.

Weddings and funerals would be able to go ahead, but with groups of 10 or fewer and no food provision or other elements than the service itself.

Ardern said the new guidelines “in no way foreshadows” whether or not New Zealand would move out of lockdown next week, and were simply intended to give businesses and the public a greater degree of certainty about what the future would look like.

She likened Alert Level Three to “a waiting room or a recovery room”, with significant restrictions still in place while health officials assessed the extent of Covid-19’s ongoing risk to the country.

“The same level of discipline to keeping to the rules continues to apply at Level 3, if not more … the last thing we want to do is step down in a way that gives away the gains we’ve made.”

Asked about the possibility of a trans-Tasman “bubble” with Australia allowing some travel between the two countries, Ardern said the Government had been involved with discussions with Singapore about such an arrangement and was taking a broader look at how it could maintain necessary border restrictions with some amendments where safe.

Sam Sachdeva is Newsroom's national affairs editor, covering foreign affairs and trade, housing, and other issues of national significance.

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