New Zealand’s COVID-19 diaries so far narrate a remarkable tale of triumph and progress amidst globally grim scenario. Moving forward along the path, Jacinda Ardern on 11 May announced that New Zealand would enter Alert Level 2 from the midnight of 13 May. It would mean setting the stage for economic restoration through the higher degree of business operations.
The Labour Government in the face of the pandemic has ever since implemented carefully devised strategies which have bloomed hopes of a revival for the Kiwi land. The ‘elimination’ plan of Jacinda Ardern has been reaping out fruitful prospects as the country gradually and consistently drifts towards the safe harbour.
The total infection tally as on 13 May 2020 (at 1:50 PM NZST) sits at 1,497 (including confirmed and probable cases), out of which 1,402 have recovered while 21 resulted in fatal causalities. The single-digit figures of the new infection’s statistics against the deplorable global scenario pinpoint the problems dodged by the country.
The improving infections conditions across the country has facilitated the government to implement phased approaches as the road to economic recovery. Moreover, the fiscal and monetary measures in the form of wage subsidy schemes, government-backed loans, etc. were designed for ensuring income through the tough times. The Alert Level 2 would also reduce the dependency on government support as more businesses pick up the steam.
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The Government’s Level 2 decision on Tuesday came after the three new confirmed COVID-19 cases. While the two cases were from St Margaret’s cluster, the third new COVID-19 infection is related to the overseas traveller.
With this backdrop, let us have a closer look at the elements of Alert Level 2 Decision:
Stratified Workplace Reopening
Alert Level 2 will follow the phased implementation approach where the businesses, which remained closed under Alert Level 3, would reopen. Depending upon the nature of the business, the different businesses would have to operate under various regulations set. Meanwhile, appropriate hygiene and social distancing norms would be followed during the activities.
Restaurants and cafés would reopen from 14 May 2020 under the necessary “Three Ss” guidelines - Seat, Separate, Serve. The businesses would be allowed to have only as many customers that can safely be seated. Despite the availability of the seating arrangements, no businesses can have more than 100 customers at a time. Physical distance through the separation between the people remains one of the critical criteria for the businesses.
Meanwhile, the bars can reopen from 21 May 2020. Marisa Bidois, Restaurant Association chief executive, indicated that bars providing dining services could open in Alert Level 2. However, the other would resume their operations on 21 May 2020
PM also stressed to manage the social distancing for the queues out the cafés, restaurants, and other venues, while promoting work from home where possible. Jacinda Ardern concerning the safety concerns said, “We may have won a few battles, but we have not won the war”
The close contact professionals such as beauticians, hairdressers, etc. would need to wear masks.
Limits on Gathering
The gatherings in New Zealand is limited to 10. It would mean that the transmission chances are reduced while also easing the contact tracing in case of infection. The extension of the bubbles is extended while PM urged to keep the social gathering small now.
The limits on the number would be followed both indoors and outdoors. While inviting friends and family to home is permitted for the gathering of 10 is allowed. Meanwhile, churches and religious places will also follow the gathering limit.
Director-General of Health, Dr Asley Bloom for people using the public services, said that currently there remains to need to wear the masks.
The travel bans are expected to lift further under the Alert Level 2 with the recommencement of domestic travel. Air New Zealand has launched many domestic flights that would be operational during Lockdown-2. The initial domestic schedule of the airlines highlighted the flight services would majorly resume from 18 May.
The international borders would, however, remain closed during the period. Meanwhile, the country is in talks with Australia to resume the Trans-Tasman travel. The travel restrictions in the country might also depend upon the internal COVID-19 scenario as the nation would not want to take further risks.
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Public and Educational Facilities
The low number of daily cases has encouraged the government to lift the restrictions on a higher number of public places. It would further give a chance to bring the lives back to normal.
The public places such as malls, retail outlets, playgrounds, cinemas, and gyms would reopen from 14 May 2020. Meanwhile, the children will be back in their schools and early learning centres from Monday, 18 May 2020. Ardern on Tuesday highlighted that government had worked closely with the education sector for placing necessary safety measures concerning schools.
The government, however, has not decided on the return of the overseas student. New Zealand education minister Chris Hipkins has earlier suggested that the incoming foreign students can be quarantined for 14 days before they are allowed into “wider New Zealand Society”. The decision involving the international border movement is yet contemplated by the government owing to the past cases.
Legal Framework and Review
The shift to Alert Level 2 would involve relaxing the known restrictions while also ensuring the safety measures are enforced by the businesses operating in the current scenario. The government expects the enactment of a new legal framework by 13 May 2020.
Attorney-general David Parker stressing on the need for enforceability stated that alterations are centred towards warranting controls people on gathering and enforcing physical distancing during the operations of the businesses. He said, “We need the legislation in place before level two starts.”
The review of the Alert Level 2 would be done in the next two weeks. If the conditions continue to move on the positive track with the infection rate not rising, the government may lift further restrictions for speeding up the economic recovery process.