NZ Lockdown Alert Level Rules: Refresher And Updates

Sep 11, 2021
By Staff writer

Auckland is currently in Alert Level 4, while the rest of New Zealand are under Alert Level 2 rules until September 13th. The country is battling its toughest fight against COVID-19 after the first contact of the Delta outbreak was recorded on 17 August.

For at least a whole week, the whole country was put in Alert Level 4. This time frame is used for more rigorous testing and contact tracing of possible positive cases, even beyond the locations of interest where positive cases have travelled. Thanks to these health measures, some regions were demoted to Alert Level 3, and eventually Alert Level 2.

Before the outbreak, we were on a 107-day streak without community transmission. Yet again, we proved effective in our response as daily positive cases are now in constant decline.

As a refresher, these are the protocols and rules according to each Alert Level.

Alert Level Restrictions Sport, exercise, and recreation Gatherings Cafes, bars, restaurants and nightclubs
Level 4 Very High Allowed in local area only.** Not allowed Closed
Level 3 High Allowed in local area only. Only weddings, civil union, funerals, and tangihanga are allowed, with up to 10 people.

Open, but no dine-in.

Only for contactless pick-up, delivery, or drive through.

Level 2 Moderate


Team sports are limited:

Only 50 people indoors.

Only 100 people outdoors.


Only 50 people indoors.

Only 100 people outdoors.


Level 1 Low


No limits on the number of people you can exercise with.


No restrictions for both indoor and outdoor gatherings.

Open as normal.***

*Allowed, but safety measures are observed.
**Observe a 2-metre distance from others.
***Use the COVID Tracer App when you can.


Alert Level 4 - Lockdown

Alert Level 4 is the highest restriction that the NZ government has set to fight COVID-19. It’s a total lockdown, meaning that staying home within your bubble is enforced at all times. Movements outside the home are only allowed for:

  • Shopping for groceries and other essentials
  • Accessing necessary healthcare systems
  • Getting a COVID-19 test or vaccination
  • Exercising within your local community
  • Going to work (only for Alert Level 4 workers that can’t work from home)

For those living alone, they may arrange a bubble with other people also living alone. Do note that only one bubble arrangement is allowed.

Wear face masks at all times

When leaving the household bubble, a physical distancing of 2 metres must be observed at all times. Face coverings must also be worn at all times unless you have a disability or health condition indicated in your exemption card.

  • All public transport and departure areas for train stations and bus stops
  • Essential flights, both domestic or international
  • Taxi and ride-sharing services for both drivers and passengers 
  • Visits to healthcare facilities, including appointments
  • Inside any operating Alert Level 4 businesses, where customer contact is unavoidable like supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies
  • Attending public courts, tribunals, local and central government agencies, and social service providers that have customer service counters

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“One-in, one-out policy” policy for essential services

Essential services like dairies, pharmacies, and food banks operate on a strict “one-in, one-out” policy. Petrol stations may serve ready-to-eat food but they can’t serve food that needs to be prepared, packaged, or consumed on-site. 

Supermarkets continue to operate with strict physical distancing measures. Grocery and whole-food delivery services are allowed as long as the food is not pre-cooked and payments must be contactless. Takeaways are non-operational.

Rubbish collection, postal services, parcel deliveries, and self-service laundromats continue to operate. Public transportation is available but limited only to essential personal movements.

Public gatherings are not allowed

Public gatherings such as faith-based gatherings, funerals and tangihanga, birthdays, weddings, and education aren’t allowed for whatever reason. However, faith-based gatherings can be live-streamed from the place of worship.

Recreations such as walks, runs, or bike rides are allowed only within the community. Driving in a place to exercise is allowed, but it should be close to where you live. Activities that may possibly lead to emergencies such as swimming, surfing, boating, hunting, or tramping are extremely discouraged.

People at risk and older people to stay home 

People over the age of 70 or those who have preexisting conditions are not allowed to go out of the home. They should assign other people in the household to pick up essential supplies and leave them at the door to follow social distancing and sanitary guidelines.

If they live alone or in a retirement home, the Ministry of Health has updated information on how to create a bubble system or buddies during Alert Level 4.

Alert Level 3 - Restrict

Alert Level 3 imposes more lenient restrictions on your bubble. While bubbles are allowed even outside the household, they should still be limited to close family members, isolated people, and caregivers. Keeping the bubble small is important. Under this Alert Level, Kiwis can:

  • Work in offices (Although working from home is encouraged)
  • Open businesses that require close contact remain close
  • Take business travels within the Alert Level boundary
  • Children and young people should still attend class remotely
  • Early learning centres may open for children whose parents are at work
  • Family gatherings are allowed up to 10 people

Your friends, whanau, and extended family that are not part of your bubble shouldn’t be invited into your home, even if they’re fully vaccinated.

Wear face masks in public places

When in public places, Kiwis must wear face masks at all times and observe a physical distance of 2 metres. For controlled environments such as family and faith-based gatherings, it’s okay to keep a 1-metre physical distance. Nonetheless, you should observe wearing masks in:

  • Public transport, taxis, and ride-sharing services are allowed for essential movements
  • Private vehicles are allowed for all purposes, except for road trips and leisure travel
  • Active transport like bikes must maintain a 2-metre distance from one another
  • Visits to any business, courts, and healthcare facilities that operate within Alert Level 3

Essential services are allowed to accommodate customers

Essential businesses and services where interaction is essential can accommodate customers. However, the prescribed physical distance must be observed at all times. These essential services include:

  • Supermarkets
  • Dairies
  • Butchers
  • Fishmongers
  • Greengrocers
  • Food banks
  • Petrol stations
  • Self-service laundries
  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Hardware stores — for trade customers only
  • Health services
  • Pharmacies
  • Accommodation services
  • Courts and tribunals
  • Social and community-based services
  • Emergency services
  • Parliamentary services
  • Passenger services
  • School hostels

Takeaways, cafes, and restaurants can operate for contactless orders, either through pick-up, delivery, or drive-through. Dining in isn’t allowed. 

People at risk are recommended to stay home

While you can go out to purchase essential items, it’s recommended that you assign other people to do it for you. If you don’t have other people in your bubble to do it for you, you can do it yourself, although highly discouraged.

You can also get in-home essential care at home during Alert Level 3, but some services may be limited to reduce the risks of COVID-19 transmission.


Alert Level 2 Rules - Reduce

Alert Level 2 lessens the restrictions of who can be in your household bubble. Even your friends, whanau, and extended family can now be part of your household bubble. Almost all facilities return back to normal, but certain precautions are still needed to be followed.

  • All businesses can return to normal, given that they follow health protocols
  • Early learning services, schools, Kura, and tertiary facilities can fully open
  • Public transport is fully operational but everyone must be seated
  • Taxis and ride-sharing services can travel freely within the Alert Level boundary
  • Gatherings can accommodate up to 50 people indoors, and up to 100 people outdoors

Wearing face masks is encouraged in public places

While face masks aren’t required especially for controlled areas, it’s still encouraged to wear face masks in public places. Keeping at least a 2-metre physical distance is advisable but a 1-metre distance will do. 

  • Face masks must still be worn in public transport at all times
  • Anyone travelling outside the Alert Level boundary must pass an eligibility check
  • Travellers can take domestic flights for recreation and tourism purposes
  • Visitors and travellers can use international services to go back home

All businesses can operate on strict safety measures

Essential and non-essential services can fully operate, as long as they follow the health protocols set by the government. This includes wearing face masks and keeping a 2-metre distance from one another unless they're family or friends.

While restrictions become more lenient, it’s still highly recommended to use the NZ COVID Tracer App. Most businesses now make it a requirement before you enter the stops, but it’s best to do it on your own accord. This has proven to be an effective tool in tracing where the first contact of the Delta variant went.

People at risk have more freedom but still need to be cautious

While people at risk can freely move around to buy essential and non-essential items, they should still follow public health protocols such as observing physical distancing and wearing face masks. If you can, keep your trips outside as short and contactless as possible.

Most especially for high-risk people, they should always disinfect whenever possible. Wash hands frequently and avoid touching items when outside. 

Alert Level 1 - Prepare

Alert Level 1 is where everything in the community is back to normal. All businesses, schools, and agencies have come back to normal. Although they may still be new cases in the border facilities, community cases are contained. 

  • Borders remain still closed. All people entering must undergo quarantine.
  • If you are unwell, get tested and self-quarantine immediately.
  • No restrictions mean a greater risk of community transmission.

Wear face masks in public transport

Wearing face masks is legally required on public transport. This applies to trains, buses, trams, and domestic flights. In taxis and ride-sharing services, face masks aren’t required but highly encouraged.

Also, keeping track of all the places you’ve gone still remains crucial, if ever an outbreak is to happen at any moment.

Businesses are encouraged to keep at least a 1-metre distance

While it’s not mandatory to observe physical distancing, it’s encouraged to keep a safe distance from other people that you don’t know. This minimises the risk of contracting the virus from possibly asymptomatic cases.

People at risk can move freely without restrictions

As the possibility of transmission is very minimal and an outbreak is very unlikely to happen, even people at risk can move freely. Bubbles can be as large as you want, even including acquaintances from your church, gyms, and more.

As with anything, maintaining good hygiene is important. This keeps you less vulnerable, not only from COVID-19 but also from common diseases like colds, cough, and fever. If COVID-19 reappears in the community, this should shield you from getting infected.

Keep your power consumption low while you stay at home

Being stuck at home can cause your power bill to spike. That’s why it’s important to keep your power consumption in check, so you don’t end up with a bill shock. For the best power saving tips during lockdown, check these quick and easy tips.

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