Gathering restrictions, mask use and keeping aged care facilities on “very strict settings” make up what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is calling Auckland’s alert level 2.5, in place from Monday.
Initially, the plan had been for the Super City to join the rest of the country at alert level 2 at 11.59pm on Sunday. Instead, Ardern has tweaked the framework.
The Auckland cluster, recognised as the country’s largest, has 135 cases linked to it, and led to Auckland University data modelling expert Shaun Hendy warning against relaxing travel restrictions on the city’s residents.
Jacinda Ardern / Facebook
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with Buttabean Motivation’s Dave Letele, and got crafty, making her own mask.
But with just two new Covid-19 cases announced on Sunday, the Government wants to forge ahead with easing level 3 lockdown restrictions in Auckland, which have been in place for the past two-and-a-half weeks.
* Coronavirus: Two new Covid-19 cases, Auckland to move to ‘level 2.5’
* Auckland lockdown extended until Sunday, rest of country to stay at level 2
* Coronavirus: Could alert level 1.5 be coming for the rest of New Zealand?
* Coronavirus: Status quo remains, with Auckland remaining at alert level 3, rest of NZ at level 2 until August 26
Instead of relaxing gathering numbers to 100 as the level 2 framework involves, social gatherings at level 2.5 will be limited to 10, encompassing everything from birthdays and other family gatherings.
“No gathering can be larger than 10. I cannot stress how important this is. Much of this cluster has stemmed from social gatherings. If we want to stop the spread, we have to stop socialising for a time,” Ardern said.
However, authorised funerals and tangihanga could have up to 50 people in attendance.
Auckland visual team
The community outbreak of coronavirus in south Auckland has created an “atmosphere of hopelessness but also resilience”, locals say.
From Monday, mask use will be mandatory on most forms of public transport for passengers aged 12 years and older – a rule in place under level 2 for all of New Zealand.
“A bus ride was a source of cases in this cluster and is one of the few settings where people are in close proximity for a sustained period of time with people they do not know. And on masks generally: please wear them, Auckland.
“Some will ask why we haven’t mandated the use of masks past public transport. I will not rule out mandating their use in the future if we see people failing to use them as we are encouraging people to use them right now.
“We are also keeping aged care facilities in Auckland on very strict settings. To those this affects, I am sorry. I know how hard this will be, but we need to keep everyone in our aged care facilities safe,” Ardern said.
The prime minister stressed that while these rules were in place in Auckland, they applied to Aucklanders wherever they were in the country, and relied on “common sense and care rather than enforcement for those who are travelling”.
Professor Shaun Hendy says any transition down alert levels is risker than last time.
“If you are an Aucklander, please don’t just pop into an aged care facility no matter where it is in the country. Please don’t attend a mass gathering, even if it’s not in Auckland. And if you are sick, please stay home. Definitely don’t travel,” Ardern said.
She was adamant there was no guidance from the Ministry of Health indicating it was unsafe for Auckland to move out of level 3.
However, Hendy said there was a risk in moving to level 2 when cases associated with the Auckland cluster were being picked up through testing rather than by contact tracing.
“If we can’t immediately link these cases to the main cluster, then it is very likely we have undetected active cases in the community, and once we go to level 2, spread could kick off again.”