South Island holding its breath as lockdown decision looms

Devon Bolger, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 23 Aug 2021, 2:29PM
(Photo / Hamish Clark)
(Photo / Hamish Clark)

South Island holding its breath as lockdown decision looms

Devon Bolger, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 23 Aug 2021, 2:29PM

The big question looming today is whether the South Island will yet again escape the grips of the Covid-19 Delta outbreak paving the way for a possible shift to alert level 3.

There have been no cases in the south despite the total nationwide growing to 107 - 99 in Auckland and eight in Wellington.

A decision will be made at Cabinet and announced by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at 4pm on whether the alert level 4 lockdown will be extended beyond midnight on Tuesday. With the South Island not having any community cases, the big question is if it will move to alert level 3 and when?

Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking that officials did not know where every exposed person went in New Zealand when the lockdown was announced and that was the risk when changing alert levels by region.

Hopes that some parts of the country might be able to move out of a full lockdown early are up in the air with Verrall saying "tens of thousands" of Aucklanders left the region when the lockdown was announced, and that's a risk.

What would alert level 3 look like?

Face coverings

You legally must wear a face covering:

  • On public transport.
  • On domestic flights.
  • If you are a taxi or ride-share driver.

You're 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.

Travel and personal movement

You legally must stay within your household bubble whenever you are not at work or school. You can expand this to:

  • Connect with close family and whānau.
  • Bring in caregivers, or support isolated people.

Only include people in your bubble where it will keep you and them safe and healthy. If anyone within your bubble feels unwell, they must immediately self-isolate from everyone else within the bubble.

You can travel locally

You can travel within your local area, for example going to work or school, shopping, or getting exercise.

Your local area means the area near your home that you regularly visit for essential services. What is considered local will differ depending on where you live. City dwellers may have a supermarket or dairy close by. If you live rurally, you may need to take a drive to reach these.

Physical distancing

Keep your distance when outside your home:

  • Two metres in public and retail stores, like supermarkets
  • One metre in controlled environments, like workplaces and schools.

Public transport can continue to operate with strict health and safety requirements.

Travel between regions is heavily restricted

If there is an alert level 3 boundary, the Government will publish information on the Covid-19 website about which travel is permitted.

Gatherings and events

Gatherings of up to 10 people can go ahead, but only for:

  • Wedding and civil union ceremonies.
  • Funerals and tangihanga.

Physical distancing and public health measures legally must be maintained.

Takeaways and shopping

Cafes, restaurants and takeaways can open but only for contactless pick-up, delivery or drive through. You cannot go in to dine.

Food delivery services, such as Delivereasy and Uber Eats, can also operate.

McDonald's has said it will revert to Drive-Thru and McDelivery only and any restaurant located in a mall will be closed in line with Level 3 mall closures.

Stores such as Mitre 10, The Warehouse and Bunnings will remain closed but many can still offer contactless click and collect or delivery.

Public venues

Public venues legally must close at alert level 3.

This includes libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds and markets.

Exercise, sport and recreation

The Government is warning alert level 3 is not the time to take up new activities. You can do low-risk recreation activities in your local area.

Go to your local park or beach, not your favourite one. You cannot stay overnight at your bach or holiday home.

If you are experienced you can do more activities. These include:

  • Surfing — if you are an experienced surfer, you can go to your local break.
  • Tramping — day walks on easy trails are allowed. Remember to keep your distance from other people. DOC huts and campsites are closed.
  • Mountain biking — allowed on easy trails if you are experienced and know the trail.
  • Swimming — in safe local spots.
  • Horse riding — if you are an experienced rider and it is low risk. Stay as close to home as you can.

Stay within 200 metres from shore if you are kayaking, canoeing, rowing, surfing, wind surfing or paddle boarding.

Workplaces and businesses

  • If your business requires close physical contact it cannot operate.
  • It is recommended staff work from home if they can
  • Businesses need to display a QR code and have an alternative contact tracing system.
  • Customers cannot come onto the premises — unless it is a supermarket, dairy, butcher, fishmonger, greengrocer, petrol station, pharmacy or permitted health service.
  • The business must be contactless. Customers can pay online, over the phone or in a contactless way. Delivery or pick-up must also be contactless.
  • Basic hygiene measures must be maintained. Physical distancing, hand washing and regularly cleaning surfaces. Workers legally must stay home if they are sick.
  • Staff must remain a minimum of 1 metre apart at all times where practical. Other measures, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) including face coverings, are recommended to be used where appropriate.
  • Business must legally meet all other health and safety obligations.


Children and young people should learn from home at alert level 3.

Any child who does not have supervision at home from an appropriate person can attend their service or school.

Mt Hutt ski area had nearly a metre of snow in the bass area and up to two and a half metres on the summit on Monday. Photo / Supplied

Mt Hutt ski area had nearly a metre of snow in the bass area and up to two and a half metres on the summit on Monday. Photo / Supplied

Mt Hutt ski area manager James Mackenzie said he hopes the South Island is viewed as its own bubble so alert levels can be lifted there.

"We've had a good start to the season. We're looking forward to getting out of this level 4.

"We're hoping we might be able to get away with a phased return to operations at Mt Hutt which can't really happen until level 2 but at level 3, we can get things done, get some maintenance done."

He said if alert levels don't change, they may consider extending their season.

"We've got a really solid base now, nearly a metre in the bass area up to two and a half on the summit and if things stayed where they were, we might consider pushing our season a little longer.

"We're already scheduled to go until October 17 but if there's still an appetite for skiing beyond that, we'll definitely look at that."