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Covid-19: How to do business at the new level 2

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Covid-19 alert levels are changing, with most of the country, apart from Auckland, moving to level 2 at midnight Tuesday – and that means most businesses can get back to work.

While Auckland will stay at level 4 for at least another week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement will ease the pressure for thousands of businesses.

But the prime minister also said this time round it was a new version of level 2 in response to the more infectious nature of the Delta outbreak.

That means some key differences to the previous level 2 restrictions. These include greater requirements around masks, and stricter limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings.

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Face masks are now mandatory inside public facilities, as well as on public transport and domestic flights, while the maximum number of people allowed at indoor hospitality and event venues is 50. Outdoors it is 100.

Additionally, records must be kept of attendees at indoor and outdoor events, and social distancing requirements at indoor events has been increased to 2 metres from 1 metre.

Covid-19 alert levels are changing, with most of the country, apart from Auckland, moving to level 2 at midnight Tuesday.

Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Covid-19 alert levels are changing, with most of the country, apart from Auckland, moving to level 2 at midnight Tuesday.

So what do the new requirements mean for most businesses?

Shops, offices, factories and all other workplaces (including personal care businesses such as hairdressers) can reopen, but they have to follow public health rules.

Physical distancing rules mean workers must keep 1 metre apart and retail customers 2 metres apart. Some shops and supermarkets might limit the number of people allowed on their premises to help maintain distancing.

People who work indoors – in shops, restaurants, libraries or gyms, for example – and in public facing roles will have to wear a mask. Bus and taxi drivers also have to wear masks, as do residential delivery drivers when they are out of their vehicle.

All businesses will have to display a QR code or provide an alternative contact tracing system, such as a signing in sheet. Record keeping will be a requirement for all people aged 12 and over at all alert levels at busy places and events.

Will supermarkets have to go about business any differently?

The drop in alert levels will not change most of the rules for supermarkets.

Foodstuffs spokeswoman Emma Wooster said everything stays the same in level 2 when it comes to supermarket shopping. “Wear masks, physically distance, one shopper per household.”

Countdown spokeswoman Kate Porter said there was not “a huge difference between alert level 2 and 3”.

“Masks are still mandatory, customers should sign in, and we will still have customer numbers limited in-store, physical distancing, and so on.”

The drop in alert levels will not change most of the rules for supermarkets.

SIMON O’CONNOR/Stuff

The drop in alert levels will not change most of the rules for supermarkets.

Countdown would continue its increased cleaning regime, she said. “But there are a few things that come back in level 2 like bulk food and deli counters.”

Will restaurants, cafés and bars be able to open?

Restaurants and cafés can reopen, but there will be extra safety measures in place. Diner numbers will be restricted to 50 people per venue with 1 metre distancing between tables.

Up to 100 customers are allowed at outdoor venues, and the three ‘S’ rules will still apply with diners needing to be seated, separated and served by a single server where possible.

All staff and customers will be required to wear masks and signing in will be mandatory

Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said while the hospitality industry is pleased to be able to reopen, and united in its desire to keep customers and staff safe, the added restrictions under level 2 will be challenging.

Bars and nightclubs can also open, but with seated service only. Dance floors are to remain closed.

How does the numbers rule work if a venue has indoor and outdoor areas?

A venue with people in both indoor and outdoor spaces needs to make sure the two groups do not mix. That means separate entrances for shared areas, such as bathrooms or counters where people go up to order or pay.

Employees working at an event legally must wear a face covering if they interact with customers.

Do office workers need to wear masks?

The Government encourages the use of face coverings as much as possible, apart from people who are exempt. If your job involves interacting with customers, you must wear a face covering while you are at work, but otherwise there is no mention on the official Covid-19 site of office workers specifically being required to wear masks.

Do offices need to limit the number of staff present?

Offices need to ensure workers can keep 1 metre apart from other people they work with, and 2 metres apart from customers or visitors.

The number of people allowed indoors is capped for gatherings, such as at hospitality or event venues, but a cap for workplaces is not mentioned.

Do tradespeople have to wear masks?

Tradespeople can work in people’s homes at level 2 and are not on the list of workers required to wear a face covering. They must stay at least 2 metres away from everyone in the home, keep a record for contact tracing, and minimise physical contact, for example by having contactless payment.

Can my boss force me to come in to work?

According to Employment NZ, if work is allowed at the workplace under the current alert level, and all health and safety duties are met, then workers have to go in unless there is an agreed alternative arrangement.

If you let your manager or employer know you have health and safety concerns about coming in to work, and your employer agrees, they have to take “reasonably practicable” steps to deal with those concerns.

If those concerns are not addressed, a worker does not have to come in to work.

Which workers have to have regular surveillance tests?

Essential workers crossing the Auckland border will be expected to have a test each week and have proof of that.

People doing surveillance testing, which is free, will not have to stand down or stay at home while waiting for their result, unless they have symptoms.

The proof of testing is being finalised, but will probably be an email or text message confirming that a person has had a test in the last seven days.

Healthcare workers who have worked in units with Covid-19 patients will have more regular surveillance testing, and there will be twice weekly testing for all workers in Auckland quarantine facilities.

Is the wage subsidy available to areas that move to level 2?

Yes, if your revenue is down 40 per cent, you can claim the wage subsidy while any part of the country is in alert level 3 or 4 – it doesn’t have to be your region.

How will the real estate industry operate at level 2?

Real estate offices can open, and it is possible to visit to talk to agents or sign contracts.

But 2 metre physical distancing and hygiene guidelines have to be followed. Masks are recommended and any visit needs to be recorded via the QR code or contact tracing register.

There are restrictions on movement and on the number of people who can visit a property or attend auctions. That means attendance at open homes and auctions has to be strictly managed, and contact between people has to be limited.

But pre-settlement inspections, appraisals and listings can all be carried out, providing the official guidelines are followed and physical distancing rules are observed. Property settlements and house moves can also take place.

The official advice is that everyone in the industry should do as much as possible by phone or video call rather than in person.

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