On Monday, at 11.59 PM, New Zealand came out of the strict Level 4 restrictions related to COVID-19 infectious disease and entered Level 3. It means the Kiwis have moved to a less-restrictive way of living after going through Level 4 constraints for past four and a half weeks.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has declared that the coronavirus is currently eliminated from the country and this makes NZ a focus of international attention. The number of cases reduced to such low levels that on multiple days the cases reported were in single-digits, and on Sunday, only one case was reported. Prime Minister said that the country has eliminated the virus and stopped the community transmission of the virus.
However, officials have warned Kiwis against complacency. Easing to Level 3 does not mean a total end to any chance of getting the infection. People should still avoid all social gatherings and do not go outside unnecessarily.
What does it mean for Kiwis to enter Level 3?
The government has said that citizens would stay in Alert Level 3 for two weeks. Any further decision on whether to continue Level 3 or not will come on 11 May. At Level 3, all must be vigilant and stick to the rules. Government guidelines are as follows:
- Personal movement: Kiwis must remain inside when not at work, school, exercising or buying groceries or other essentials. People should stay within their household bubble. One could expand the bubbles to meet close family or support isolated people or bring in caregivers. In case you plan to extend your bubble, protect it. If anyone in the bubble feels unwell, they should immediately isolate themselves.
- Education: So, at Level 3, it will be safe for early learning/education centres and schools to open with appropriate public health measures in place, only for kids up to and including the age of 10. Children aged 11-13 will continue learning at home.
If possible, students should continue distance learning from home. In case parents or caregivers need to send children to school, they can as schools will be a safe place. Home-based early learning services can resume if they meet public health requirements. The maximum number of licensed children can be 4, including educators’ children.
School staff, children, or young people who are at higher risk should stay home. The sick person should remain home. For a school environment, it is not necessary to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like gloves and masks.
What does it mean for the businesses?
There are restrictions to keep workers and customers safe. Businesses need to self-examine if they can meet the Level 3 restrictions to function safely. Government guidelines to do business during Alert Level 3 are:
- No close physical contacts allowed in your businesses.
- Encourage work from home for employees as much as possible.
- Customers cannot enter your business premises with exceptions to businesses dealing in dairy, supermarket, pharmacy, petrol station, or permitted health service.
- Businesses must be contactless where payment and delivery both should be contactless.
- Strict hygiene measures should be maintained that include physical distancing, regularly cleaning surfaces, and hand washing.
- If any worker is sick, they should stay at home.
What happened when New Zealand entered Level 3?
After five-week of lockdown, about 400,000 Kiwis are back to work. Some businesses got reopened, and hopefully, now, Kiwis will get some break from regular cooking as restaurants have started giving takeaways.
The total COVID-19 cases stood at 1,476 on 30 April 2020 (at 9:00 AM NZST), including the confirmed cases and the probable ones. On Wednesday, there were no casualties due to COVID-19 infection. There are nine patients in the hospital and one in intensive care. On Wednesday, two new confirmed cases were reported.
The Epidemic Response Committee returned and heard from retailers, Auckland Chamber of Commerce, health and beauty practitioners, and the hospitality industry. Prime Minister and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield’s virus eliminating statement attracted international media attention on the definition of virus elimination. Dr Bloomfield had to clarify that the country has not eliminated or eradicated the coronavirus.
The housing market could reopen and start operating under Level 3. Government has told that tightly-controlled, private, and viewings can now operate from this week. Immigration industry is facing some challenges due to government restrictions to sort out visa problems. New Zealand immigration has already renewed the work visas that were expiring from April to July. The challenges though are migrants who were locked out by the border closure and who have lost their jobs are still waiting for solutions.
Now, you can drive short distances in your local area. If you live on a regional boundary, your nearest recreational area could mean travelling to a neighbouring region. You can only go to a nearby park or beach, or you can also go for a walk or a run in your local area. Even you can swim at the local beach or do fishing from a wharf.
Government launches new tool to connect employers to job seekers
To help current employers connect with job seekers, the Ministry for Social Development is taking several initiatives. It launched a new online recruitment tool, named ‘Keep New Zealand Working’ that will connect the employer directly to the job seekers. The tool will make it easier and quicker for people to find work. It is now live and offers online training courses.
Other initiatives to help people get work are:
- Thirty-five new employment centres started working across the country under Level 3 restrictions. The centres work with employers and job seekers over phone and online. When the restrictions ease to Level 2, face to face engagement with employers will begin.
- An employment service of Keep New Zealand Working is initiated for people directly impacted by the pandemic and not on the main benefit.
- There is a fast-tracking service of Keep New Zealand Working tool to benefit job seekers who are looking to re-arrange with the job market.
- The government is working with industry on something in-line with free online Community Health course with NZQA Unit Standards, to get quick upskilling solutions.
Although the restrictions have eased at Level 3, the fight to contain and eliminate the virus continues. With entry into Alert Level 3, the economy is trying to come back on track, but socially we must still maintain the measures of social distancing. The message is clear - stay home as much possible, but schools, restaurants, and retailers can reopen on a small scale with preventive measures. The government’s priority is still the safety of people.