Welcome to Alert Level 2 New Zealand! Here's everything you can do from today

  • New Zealand has moved Alert Level 2 today, Thursday, May 14.
  • On Monday, May 18 schools and early learning centres may reopen
  • On Thursday, May 21 bars may reopen if they are able to follow the correct restrictions.
  • Group gatherings of no more than 10 will be allowed at Alert Level 2. These restrictions will be reassessed in two weeks time.

What will be open that wasn't open before?

Pretty much everything. Clothing chains, department stores, garden centres, massage parlours, hairdressers, you name it. Some are even planning on opening at midnight, which First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson said was part of the "theatre" of retail.

"I honestly haven't heard of anyone not opening," he said.

Level 2 is a "golden opportunity" for businesses to welcome customers back, and Wilkinson expects everybody to be jumping to take advantage of it.

What's happening with malls?

Shopping malls are reopening, but you'll need to check on your local mall's opening hours.

Kiwi Property, which owns a number of malls around the country, will reopen its centres at reduced hours in level 2. There will be no late-night trading until May 28.

Kiwi Property shopping centres include Sylvia Park and LynnMall in Auckland, The Base and Centre Place in Hamilton, The Plaza in Palmerston North and Northlands in Christchurch.

They will be using people-counting systems to monitor customer capacity limits at each centre.

Will garden centres be open?

Garden centres are throwing open their doors just like everyone else today, so you'll be able to get to work on any winter gardening.

California Home and Garden Lower Hutt manager Greg Lowe said they had been getting steady business through click and collect, but many of their customers were an older demographic that might not have been confident using the online services, so it was difficult to tell whether there'd be an influx.

"We don't know how busy we're going to be, but fingers crossed we are."

Lowe said they were well stocked, aside from a couple of things, but 99 per cent of products would be fully available.

A Palmers spokeswoman said they were looking forward to reopening, and would be taking plenty of safety precautions.

"High-touch areas such as trolleys, tills, eftpos terminals will be wiped down between uses," she said.

"In accordance with government guidelines, Palmers stores have stocked up on sanitiser, wipes and PPE equipment. We have the ability to contact trace and will be ensuring that social distancing is adhered to."

How about DIY stores?

Bunnings and Mitre 10 will be welcoming in the masses from today, but don't expect the Bunnings sausage sizzle to be starting back up again yet.

Bunnings New Zealand director Jacqui Coombes said all stores across the country would be returning to normal opening hours in level 2, and will have safety measures in place, including 2-metre floor markings, increased cleaning, and potential customer limits in-store.

"Our team members have been working hard to get the shelves full and ready for customers," she said.

"We anticipate there may be some delays in our busier stores when level 2 begins and as we do everything we can to ensure customers can get what they need in a safe and orderly environment that also protects our team."

Bunnings is proposing to close seven stores in smaller towns, with 145 staff affected.

Can I get dental work done?

People are safe to start booking dental appointments in level 2, but the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) is advising clients to phone ahead rather than show up at their local clinic.

Triaging questions need to be answered over the phone before patients are permitted to attend in person, the NZDA said.

"Dentists always have infection prevention and control measures in place and are highly trained in this," said NZDA President Dr Katie Ayers.

"Doing this is not new for us. As a profession, we can draw on a long history of mandated standards in this area."

Will supermarkets be back to regular hours?

Yes and no. Some, such as Countdown, plan to return to pre-lockdown trading hours. Others will remain on adjusted hours on a case-by-case basis.

Countdown will be lifting all product limits, and will be bringing back Lotto tickets and fresh flowers. New World has recommended customers follow their local store on Facebook to keep up to date with opening hours.

Will the post shop be open?

An NZ Post spokesperson said most of their retail outlets are expected to reopen from today, but opening hours may vary.

Customers can see which post shops are open and check opening hours using the post shop locator tool on the website. If an outlet's opening hours are listed, that means it's open.

"It may take your local outlet a few days to get up and running again, so check again in a few days if you're not sure."

When can I get my hair cut?

As soon as you can get an appointment. Some barbers have announced they are opening at the stroke of midnight.

In Birkenhead, for example, at least three local barbers opened one minute after midnight.

Barber Tomi Cvetanovski is planning to down lots of coffee and sugar to keep him awake for the big reopening.

"There'll be a maximum of two barbers and two customers inside at one time and the others will have to wait outside."

Can I go to the movies?

Technically yes, you are allowed to go to the movies under level 2, as long as you remain "spaced out" from other attendees, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

But the unfortunate reality is that most movies now have a later release date than originally expected due to the Covid-19 crisis, so many cinemas around New Zealand don't have any new films to show.

Some are playing less-recent movies for customers who still want to enjoy the movie-watching experience.

Others, such as Empire Cinema in Island Bay, Wellington, are delaying reopening the cinema.

General manager Nick Payne said Empire would be opening its cafe, but the cinema itself would likely not open for at least another four weeks.

"There's no real content to play," he said.

"I think the next [movie release] is Mulan ... once this all sort of struck, I think Hollywood basically shut down and started pulling their releases."

Can I try on clothes?

Yes, but the process may be a little slower. Wilkinson said retailers will be cleaning changing rooms after each use, meaning there will be a longer wait to try things on.

Some also plan on letting garments "rest" for 24 hours after try ons and returns, and will be using steam to refresh pieces of clothing before putting them back with the rest of the stock.

What will opening hours be?

There is no one answer to this, as each store, shopping centre and business may run differently.

But Wilkinson said most businesses will be aiming to operate on normal schedules, particularly because there will be an influx of people wanting to shop, but less time to do it in due to restrictions on numbers allowed in store.

How will people stay safe while shopping?

Businesses have been hard at work over the past week preparing to safely welcome customers in level 2, Wilkinson said.

There will be more cleaning, new procedures for staff to learn, and controlled entry so the stores don't become crowded.

Some places will also be registering visitors with a QR code to help with contact tracing.

There may also be sanitiser stations, and staff may wear PPE in some stores.

Can I eat at the food court in my local mall?

Yes. Food courts will be reopening today, but expect to see a bit more control in place to keep people away from each other - a daunting prospect at lunchtime in a mall.

More cleaners are being employed to make sure tables are tidied as quickly as possible after someone leaves, to make room for the next group.

Say goodbye to self-serve at the Chinese takeaway too. Wilkinson said buffet-style food court restaurants will be making changes to keep the masses from breathing over the food.

What about my place of worship?

While churches are allowed to open, they must still obey the 10-person gathering limit, which means traditional services are not happening for the time being.

Many churches have livestreamed services throughout the lockdown.

Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki has criticised the Government's decision and said he will go ahead with a Sunday service.

"A church can act as responsibly as a cinema when it comes to health precautions and physical distancing," he said in a statement.

"In the Bill of Rights the Government must act fairly when making decisions about religious groups and it isn't doing so in allowing businesses to have more than 10 people on their premises but not churches."

Find out more information about Alert Level 2 at covid19.govt.nz.

This article was first published NZ Herald on the and is republished here with permission.