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Coronavirus lockdown set to be eased for all New Zealand except Auckland
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that COVID-19 restrictions will be eased for everywhere outside of Auckland, a move will be welcomed by the thousands of businesses that have been closed for the past three weeks.
Set to commence from Wednesday morning, the drop to alert level 2, set to take effect as of Wednesday morning, will see most New Zealanders able to enjoy more freedoms.
The key differences to the previous level 2 restrictions are limits on gatherings.
Indoors, such as in hospitality settings or event venues, will see the maximum number of people allowed capped at 50 but with social distancing increased, from 1 metre previously, to 2 metres under the new alert level 2.
Outdoors, numbers are limited to 100, with records required to be kept of attendees at both indoor and outdoor events.
In addition, masks are mandatory at level 2 for:
- Retail workers, including those that were operating at alert levels 3 and 4.
- Employees at an indoor public facility - for example, a library, museum or a gym. People who work at a swimming pool do not need to wear a face covering.
- Public-facing court, tribunal, local or central government agency or social service workers
- Residential delivery drivers, when they are out of their vehicle.
- Workers at a cafe, restaurant, bar, nightclub, soup kitchen or any other food or drink business.
- Hairdressers, barbers, beauty therapists and massage therapists.
Face coverings are also mandatory for everyone at most public venues, such as shopping malls, libraries and restaurants - although people can take them off to eat and drink.
Mask are still required on public transport and domestic flights and are mandatory for taxi and ride-share drivers but not compulsory for passengers. Again, they are advised.
One of the big changes between levels 2 and 3 is that travel is less restricted. Travel between regions is allowed at level 2 but not to Auckland.
Walking, biking and hunting - including on public conservation land and overnight trips - are allowed at level 2.
Swimming pools, gyms, dance studios and health clubs will reopen but there will be rules on numbers, social distancing and cleaning. Council facilities are also open.
Gyms, museums and libraries will now be subject to a 2-metre distance ruling. The number of people permitted to enter will depend on the size of the venue while team sports can recommence but are limited to 100 people.
The limit includes players and spectators but does not include referees, officials and other workers providing services.
If a sports ground has more than one field, multiple games can be played at the same time, as long as each group is separated.
Some live event organisations are planning for level 2 to still be in place at Christmas, which is more than 14 weeks away.
Among them is Venues Ōtautahi - operators of Christchurch Town Hall, Christchurch Arena and Orangetheory Stadium - which does not expect venues to run at full capacity for nearly four months.
Commenting on the continued wearing of masks, University of Otago epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker told Stuff that a return to level 1 is unlikely for the foreseeable future, with mask wearing becoming a feature of New Zealander’s lives for the foreseeable future.
Professor Baker stated “unfortunately this is the new reality.
“There isn't a utopia of living with the virus in the future. It may be quite grim.”
He went on to suggest that places such as gyms, bars and churches should stay closed despite the easing in COVID restrictions.
ExerciseNZ highlights gym safeguards
Following Professor Baker’s comments about gyms, Exercise Association of New Zealand (ExerciseNZ) Chief Executive, Richard Beddie slammed his comments for not recognising the extra safeguards and precautionary efforts fitness facilities have introduced since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Stating that Professor Baker does not understand human behaviour, Beddie stated “he is missing the essential element that, with the right controls, any activity including people attending gyms can be safe. I would be very happy to challenge him to a public debate on this issue.
“When Professor Baker previously called for gyms to stay closed, I sent him our strict national gym policy framework, which has been praised here and overseas including the World Health Organization (WHO). It has been adopted by many other countries as a template for their own covid response.
“The key is about going above and beyond government guidelines, which we have done since May 2020. We insisted on two metre distancing and many other safe practices including a full mask policy.
“We have developed and continually updated our response to evidence-based research. We are confident that the risks can be managed, and Kiwis can continue to exercise with our controls and a specific detailed framework.
“Professor Baker is incredibly short sighted. Exercise is proven to be one of the best things a person can do to build a more robust immune system. It’s clear he needs to engage in a constructive evidence-based debate, not emotive clickbait comments such as saying keep bars and gyms closed.
“While everyone might want a black and white answer, it’s not that simple. It is not whether gyms should be open or closed, but what can be done to keep people safe. The exercising public has been safe at level two and gyms have been operating without any issues for almost 19 months now.”
Beddie has worked in the exercise industry for over 30 years, holds a science degree in statistics and understands statistical probability modelling.
Auckland, the centre of the Delta outbreak, is due for a review of its alert level later today (Monday 6th October).
Images: Auckland, which will not enter alert level 2 this week (top, credit: CINZ) and ExerciseNZ Chief Executive, Richard Beddie (below).
31st August 2021 - Lockdown sees massive rise in-home gyms in New Zealand
30th August 2021 - New Zealand-owned video eCommerce platform launches for lockdown events
29th August 2021 - New Zealand tourism prepared for lengthy lockdown
24th August 2021 - Lockdowns see closure of all ski resorts in Australia and New Zealand
20th August 2021 - New Zealand’s nationwide lockdown sees facilities closed
26th July 2021 - New Zealand Government halts trans-Tasmania travel bubble
7th July 2021 - Pause in trans-Tasman travel bubble hits New Zealand tourism
5th March 2021 - Vbase explains reasons for Venues Otautahi brand change
22nd January 2021 - ExerciseNZ urges seniors to get fitter before their COVID vaccinations
5th January 2021 - ExerciseNZ shares advice on gym reopenings
21st December 2020 - ExerciseNZ’s Richard Beddie advises that steady exercise counts
1st December 2020 - ExerciseNZ’s Richard Beddie backs WHO’s new weekly health activity guidelines
20th October 2020 - ExerciseNZ cites growing evidence gyms and fitness clubs are safe
22nd April 2020 - ExerciseNZ highlights that gyms’ commercial leases need to be regulated
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