One Question Quiz
Alert level 2 begins. Image: Tina Tiller
Alert level 2 begins. Image: Tina Tiller

PoliticsMay 13, 2020

What you can and can’t do in Covid-19 alert level two: 60 questions, answered

Alert level 2 begins. Image: Tina Tiller
Alert level 2 begins. Image: Tina Tiller

This piece was written for the move to level two in May, 2020. For the up-to-date rules for delta level two in September 2021, read this.

The rules for level two will be introduced in three phases. Here’s our bumper collection of the restrictions that will apply when we jump down from alert level three.

When does New Zealand move into alert level two?

Mostly on Thursday May 14. Or, more specifically, if you’re desperate to burst that bubble, at 11.59pm on Wednesday May 13.

Why “mostly”?

It’s a bit staggered. Education is back on May 18. Bars on May 21. More on that soon.

So bubbles can be burst under alert level two?

Yes. Kiss your bubbles goodbye. They fly so high, nearly touch the sky, then like your dreams – well, bubbles cease is the point.

I can meet up with friends and family?

Go ahead. The only rule is that groups need to be kept to 10, maximum – at least until May 25, when that number will be reviewed.

What if my existing bubble is currently more than 10? Will evictions be required?

Of course not. But it could be a good way to spend an evening / tear what is left of your family solidarity apart.

What if I get sick?

Stay home. Do not go to work. Do not go to school. Call Healthline.

What can I do to help the contact tracing part of the equation?

We’re still waiting for contact tracing app news. If you run a business or a workplace, you need to retain information on visitors. But you can keep a record of where you’ve been and who you’ve come into contact with. Think of it as a diary. For posterity.

Which businesses can open?

Almost all. Workplaces need to meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements.

Education. What’s open?

Pretty well everything. Early childhood centres: open. Schools: open. Tertiary institutions: open. But not until Monday May 18.

Do kids have to go to school?

The default switches now from stay at home if you can to go to school unless you can’t. If students are vulnerable or have health issues, contact the school to discuss keeping them at home. For more information about education provisions in general, see here.

How on earth can schools and ECE realistically achieve distancing?

It’s clearly not feasible for under-5s, and barely at schools. In both cases, they will introduce their own measures, but those will include a big boost in hygiene precautions.

Doesn’t that make these education providers a big risk as transmission vectors?

The evidence suggests otherwise. See Siouxsie Wiles’ article on the subject for more.

Can I go to a cafe or restaurant?

You can and you deserve it. As long as you’re seated and there are fewer than 100 people there. And the establishment must meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements. And the four S’s.

What are the four S’s?

Patrons must be seated and separated, with a single server. That is, you can’t have a bunch of different waiting staff serving the table.

Can I go to the pub?

As of Thursday May 14, pubs and bars can open as long as they serve every customer a meal. Otherwise, pubs and bars and taverns and brasseries, and even, I supppose, “drinkeries” can open from May 21.

Does the 100 person maximum include staff?

No. A hundred punters plus staff is the limit.

Will the movies be back?

Cinemas can reopen. A film can only be screened to up to 100 people, however. And they must meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements.

Markets and malls?

These can reopen, but will need to meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements.

What about public libraries?

They’ll reopen, but will need to meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements.

Museums and galleries?

Same. Reopen, as long as they meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements.

Does the 100 rule apply to the likes of malls and museums?

No, so long as there is not “intermingling”. But they’ll need to meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements.

Is it annoying typing meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements over and over?

It’s a pleasure. Meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements. Meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements. Meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements. Meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements. And they’ll need to meet distancing, hygiene and contact tracing requirements.

How many people can attend a funeral, or a tangi, or a wedding?

A maximum of 10.

Important update: on Wednesday afternoon the health minister, David Clark, announced this rule had been changed, following a “genuine wave of public concern”, from 10 to 50. More information in the live updates here.

Ten? But a restaurant or a cinema can have up to 100?

This is proving one of the most controversial measures. But yes. The rationale is that it’s hard to keep people apart at such emotional times.

Religious services?

Ten. If you have a dozen apostles you have some difficult decisions to make.

If you can’t do more than 10 at a funeral can you at least gather 99 at a pub for a wake?

No. You’re not permitted to gather a group of 10 or more together to go to a cafe, or a cinema, or wherever.

Didn’t Winston Peters say you could?

Winston Peters has said a lot of things.

Is travel allowed?

Yes. Travel across regions is all good.

Can I fly?

You can. Air New Zealand says it will be enforcing distancing rules, which means it won’t be able to sell the full cabin, which means – well, it may not be cheap.

Any idea which destinations Air NZ will be flying to?

As it happens, yes. From Auckland to Christchurch, Gisborne, Kerikeri, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, Tauranga, Wellington, Whangarei and Queenstown. From Wellington to Auckland, Blenheim, Christchurch, Gisborne, Hamilton, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Rotorua, and Tauranga. And from Christchurch to Auckland, Dunedin, Invercargill, Nelson, Palmerston North, Wellington and Queenstown.

What about overseas?

Not for business or pleasure.

Isn’t there a “trans-Tasman bubble”? Can’t I fly to Australia?

No. That’s an idea that is being discussed. We don’t know when it might actually happen.

What about sport?

As far as professional sport is concerned, the likes of Super Rugby and Premiership Netball can resume on the basis that they “take place in controlled workplaces”.

Can we go and watch them?

No. But they may be televised.

What about community sport?

It won’t go back to anything like normal. Unlike professional sport, community sport has to stick to the 10 person maximum.

Can I go to the pub?

We covered that already. Try to calm down.

Do borders stay closed?

Yes. Anyone who arrives – and with a few exceptions that’s New Zealand citizens only – must go into isolation for 14 days. The state pays for it, and some people end up in flash hotels.

Can I travel out of the country and back in again to get a fortnight in a flash hotel with an inescapable requirement not to see anyone and just read books and watch television and?

This is not covered in any official advice but we’re going to say no.

Will playgrounds reopen?

Yes. This includes the “four S’s”: slides, swings, and see-saws.

What are the physical distancing rules, generally speaking?

Keep your distance when you’re out. Aim for two metres. When you’re in the workplace, or venues such as cafes, cinemas, shops, malls or places of worship, make that one metre.

Domestic and home cleaners?

All go.

Hairdressers, beauticians, nail bars?

All can open. Distancing won’t be possible for many, so there are guidelines around the use of protective equipment. Normal chat may be difficult via the mask but you’ll work it out.

Physiotherapists? Dentists? Chiropractors?


Will gyms reopen?

Yes. With the distancing rules and the rest.



Walking, biking and hunting on public conservation land?

Yup. Ideally not all at the same time.

Can I go out on the boat, including motorised watersports?



Jetskis are now banned permanently and by law must be smeared in duck fat and buried in a very deep hole with your favourite pyjamas. No need to look this one up, take my word for it.

How about hospitals, doctors, other health and disability care services?

As far as possible these resume normal service. Remote consultations will remain wherever possible. Distancing and infection control guidelines will apply.

Will hospital visitors be allowed?

As explained by Ashley Bloomfield, in high risk areas such as emergency, intensive care and maternity, it will be one visitor per day, and in other parts of the hospital, one visitor at a time. There will be flexibility on the part of individual DHBs and clinicians.

And rest home visitors?

Visits to most retirement homes and aged care facilities will begin to return to normal, but there will be restrictions. Call ahead to check on the details.

Any more detail on what businesses need to do?

Absolutely. You can have customers on the premises if you have a good functioning contact register or system that will record everyone who visits. Keep physical distancing of a metre between customers – or two metres if it’s not possible to keep contact tracing records. No groups of customers over 10 (in number, not age). And customers shouldn’t stay on site for more than two hours. You’ll want hygiene procedures in place, such as hand washing and regular cleaning of surfaces.

What about providing services at a customer’s home or workplace?

Go right ahead, usual caveats.

Should businesses still have people work at home if possible?

That’s “encouraged”.

What are the rules for travelling?

Here’s the official guidance: “You can travel around the country if you follow good personal health measures. You will need to keep records of what travel services you use and keep track of who you have been in contact with. You should keep your distance from groups of people you don’t know. You should minimise the number of places you stop on the way to your destination.” If you can avoid peak times, do. Avoid sitting next to someone you don’t know, or standing. Which for most of us is not difficult.

Can I still drive around with an expired warrant of fitness or driver licence?

As of the time of writing, the NZTA official site says you can continue to drive with a driver’s licence or warrant of fitness that expired on or after January 1 2020. Unless you’re reading this at the time I’m writing it, however, you might want to check.

How will these rules be enforced?

The government is pushing through legislation under urgency to enable fines and criminal charges for breaches. They need it signed and sealed by the end of today (Wednesday).

How long does alert level two last?

Cabinet will review the rules, particularly as far as that “groups of 10, tops” rule is concerned, on Monday May 25.

Will the daily Ardern-Bloomfield campfire briefings continue?

Look, last time we did one of these monster posts, we said no they won’t, because Jacinda Ardern had said they wouldn’t, but then she changed her mind, so who knows really? Maybe they will just keep doing them forever, long after Covid-19 has disappeared, day after day, through the seasons, until the sun explodes.

Keep going!