Alert Level 2: We have won the battles but not the war

Restaurants and cafes patronage must be restricted to groups of 10. Credit: Pixabay

On Monday at 4 pm Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressed the nation on TV1 on the move to Alert Level 2.

"We may have won a few battles, but we have not won the war," she said

"All Kiwis were determined that this was a war we could eventually win if we acted together."

Case numbers remain low, and during two days of the last week, we had no cases, Ardern said.

"Thirty-five per cent of the population has been tested. Our testing rates are amongst the highest in the world per capita.

"A lot of work has gone into building up our testing capability. We can now contact trace 185 cases a day and have the capacity to reach 10,000 people a day through a new national call centre."

As of [Monday] we have only 90 people remaining with the virus.

The country is ready to move into Level 2, Ardern said. To open up the economy but do it as safely as possible.

"How we will do that? On Thursday (today) retail, malls, cafes, restaurants and other public spaces including playgrounds and gyms, can re-open.

"All will require physical distancing and strict hygiene measures."

People can begin to move around New Zealand by spacing themselves. Health services will re-start. On [next] Monday, all young people will be able to return to school.

On Thursday 21 all bars will be able to open. Everyone must be seated, there must be space between tables, and there must be multiple waiters and waitresses.

"We have left bars to last because they pose the most risk," Ardern said. "As you can see from South Korea which recently opened up its bars only to close them again after one person created an outbreak of 40 cases which caused 1500 tests.

"We have put in place measures and expectations to make hospitality as safe as possible.

"The next few days allow us to lock in the data from Level 3 and secure that we are ready for this move.

"The upshot is that in 10 days we will have opened most businesses in New Zealand."

The plan was to go hard, and go early so that we could get the economy moving sooner and get the economic benefit of getting our health response right, said Ardern.

"So far, we have," she said.

"But there does have to be a  new norm, and that is that we will be breaking out of our bubbles and be around more people. But we can do that and get more activity going if we balance this with keeping our distance and keeping our social gatherings small," Ardern said.

"There is a theme- when we come together to socialise in large numbers, there is a risk. The best insurance policy we have for that risk is to reduce the size of our socialising for now. And that is what the Director-General of Health recommends that we do."

Parties and big social events won't be allowed for anything more substantial than groups of 10. Gatherings at homes need to be kept at 10. Weddings, family gatherings, stag dos are all limited at 10 for now.

Restaurants, bars won't be able to take group bookings for more than 10.

This, along with social distancing, is our insurance policy, Ardern said.

"If something goes wrong with a group of 10 it is much easier to contain and contact trace than a group of 100," she said. "If something goes wrong, the whole country will have to experience restrictions."


Read edition 974 of the Wānaka Sun here.

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