One Question Quiz
Auckland is going into level three. Illustration: Toby Morris
Auckland is going into level three. Illustration: Toby Morris

BusinessSeptember 21, 2021

Auckland is heading into alert level three. How do the rules change?

Auckland is going into level three. Illustration: Toby Morris
Auckland is going into level three. Illustration: Toby Morris

As of 11.59pm tonight, Tuesday September 21, greater Auckland moves from level four to level three. What are the rules?

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Which parts of the country go to level three?

As of Wednesday (or 11.59pm Tuesday, in the interests of specificity and to avoid lengthy philosophical discussions around which day “midnight” belongs to), the Auckland region moves from level four to level three. 

And the rest of the country?

The rest of the country, with one exception, remains in level two. If you need a refresher, the level two rules are summarised here, though there’s one change: the maximum number for gatherings in level two doubles from 50 to 100.

And what’s that one exception?

Upper Hauraki. A section 70 notice has been issued requiring people who live or work in or have visited the area around Mangatangi in Waikato (from the existing road boundary east of Maramarua to the southeast of Miranda on the Firth of Thames) to isolate and monitor symptoms. That picturesque nugget, which includes the school and a marae, enters what Jacinda Ardern called “a bespoke lockdown requirement to give that extra layer of comfort for the community, and those around it”. It stays in force at least until Friday.

Remind me what the Auckland boundary looks like?

And is there a map of that Upper Hauraki bit?

Thought you’d never ask.

How long will Auckland be in level three?

At least until 11.59pm on Tuesday October 5. Cabinet will make a call on October 4.

Can the rest of the country move to level one in the meantime?

No. Cabinet has decided that level one is off the cards until Auckland is at level two or lower.

Level three! This is ‘level four with takeaways’, right?

For some people it might amount to that in practice, sure. But while level three is categorised as a lockdown, it’s a whole lot different to level four – for the hundreds of thousands of Aucklanders returning to work, for schools reopening, and as a result for the virus itself.

Is it possible to imagine the coronavirus in a rocking chair by an open fire, chewing on a cigar, chuckling evilly about the idea that alert level three is ‘alert level four with takeaways’?

Yes it is.

Is the best way to vanquish that accursed puffball to get vaccinated?

Yes it is.

So what changes with workplaces?

While alert level four dictates that no workplaces can open unless they meet strict rules as far as essential services are concerned, the rule in level three is quite different and open to discretion, the starting point being that “everyone should work from home if they can”.

So if you can’t operate your business from home, and you can satisfy the public health criteria, you can open. We’re talking construction, manufacturing, warehouses, a bunch of retail and hospitality outlets – a lot.

And what are those public health criteria?

Physical distancing, hygiene measures, fully contactless options for ordering, pick-up, delivery and payment. So no customers on the premises, with a few exceptions. 

And what are those exceptions?

The same as level four: supermarkets, pharmacies, dairies, butchers, fishmongers, petrol stations, GPs and hospitals. Also: banks (where online or phone banking is impossible) and hardware or DIY stores (trade only).

Can I go to my workplace to prepare for level three?

If you need to set up systems for contact tracing, contactless payment, distancing requirements and all that, yup. If you are planning to reopen, read the more detailed rules and guidelines here (or here for primary industries).

Can tourist operators open in level three? Museums? Libraries? Cinemas? Hairdressers? Beauty salons?

No, sorry.

What about domestic cleaners or driving instructors?

No. Though home cleaners can only work to provide support to vulnerable people.

Door-to-door salespeople?



Yes. Stay two metres apart from everyone in homes being visited at all times. 

What about if I need to travel between levels to get to work?

Same rules apply. We’ll get to that in a bit.

If I’m heading to work in level three is it funny to shrill Just popping down to Wānaka as I leave the house?


Will takeaways be opening at 11.59pm tonight?

If last time around is a guide, no. Go to bed.

What about schools?

Why would a school open at 11.59pm at night?

No, under level three: can schools open?

At level three, learning from home should be the goal where possible. Schools and kura will be open for Years 1 to 10 whose parents or carers need to go to work and have no childcare options. Early learning centres can open to provide childcare for tamariki whose parents are similarly placed. Years 11, 12 and 13 continue to learn from home. Teachers and students at high schools need to wear a mask indoors. There’s more here.

And tertiary education?

In level three, almost all universities, polytechnics and other tertiary providers should stick to online learning. Where that’s impossible, such as lab work, some in person services can operate in accordance with health guidelines and at a limit of 10 per class. 

Can I expand my bubble?

Default position is no, don’t do that. Maintain your existing bubble unless you need to be at work or school. You can, if necessary, expand your bubble to connect with close family and whānau, bring in caregivers, or provide support to people who are alone.

How about funerals and tangihanga? 

Unlike in level four, these can go ahead, but only up to 10 people in total can attend. More here.


Again, for weddings and civil union ceremonies, 10 people tops, all up.

Physical activity?

Keep it low risk. Playgrounds remain closed. Gyms are closed. No team sports. Mountain biking, day tramps and horse riding is OK as long as you know exactly what you’re doing. Same with hunting. More here.

When do I need to wear a mask in alert level three?

You are legally required to wear a mask in any place that involves customer contact, such as supermarkets, pharmacies and takeaways. Same goes for court and tribunals and government agencies with customer service counters.  

Masks are mandatory, too, on public transport and flights, including at airports and train stations; in taxis, Ubers and ride-shares; if visiting healthcare facilities; and if delivering goods. Elsewhere, the guidance is “you are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering when you are outside your home and in a place where it is hard to keep your distance from other people”. 

Is it mandatory to use the Covid app?

Businesses and event operators at any level are now required to ensure people keep a record when they visit. The simplest way to do that is with the Covid Tracer app, but if you prefer a ballpoint or a quill that may be possible. 

Can I cross from level three to level two or vice versa?

For most of us, it’s a hard no. 

Who can travel between levels for work?

If you haven’t been under the current level boundaries, you probably can’t now. Check the official information here and apply for business travel documentation here. (Note: documents from previous outbreaks and lockdowns don’t apply.) 

What about personal travel?

Again, you probably can’t do it. Exceptions include accessing health services for an appointment (including Covid vaccinations), caring for pets or other animals, emergencies, returning home (level three to four only), travelling through level three without stopping (from Friday), shared childcare arrangements, and urgent care of a child. That’s not a full list. Read more here. Specific evidence and ID is required.

Can I listen to the Spinoff’s Gone By Lunchtime podcast?

Yes. It is compulsory to listen the Spinoff’s Gone By Lunchtime podcast at all alert levels.

This post is updated from an earlier level three explainer. The primary source is the Unite Against Covid-19 site.

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