COVID-19 - Advice for public and private events and gatherings

At Alert Level 2, there are restrictions on how many people may come together for events or gatherings. This page includes information for both private and public events and gatherings.

This page was last updated 26 May 2020.

Update: From 12pm on Friday 29 May new increased limits on gatherings and events will apply. The need for funerals or tangihanga to register via the Ministry of Health will stop. Further information about these changes will be available later this week. Find out more on the COVID-19 website.

On this page:

Why events and gatherings have a size restriction

New Zealand’s priority is slowing the spread of COVID-19. Many gatherings such as concerts, social events, parties and the like pose a high risk for transmission of infectious diseases. 

New Zealand is currently at Alert Level 2. Alert Level 2 means changes to how gatherings, events and workplaces operate. A gathering brings people together at a specific location where they will be in close proximity for an extended period of time. These could be public, corporate or private events.

When people can maintain a 2-metre distance from others, this significantly reduces the risk for virus transmission.

Gatherings, whether incidental or planned, can occur in many places such as (but not limited to), theatres, sports and recreation facilities, community clubs and societies, some forms of transport, weddings, funerals and tangihanga, conferences, concerts, fairs, religious and non-denominational services or within workplaces. Gatherings are not necessarily a planned event or function, they can be incidental and not necessarily in an organised or controlled environment.

Some events and gatherings offer a very good environment for infectious diseases like COVID-19 to spread because people often behave in ways that facilitate transmission. This includes sharing food or drinks, sitting or standing very close together for long periods of time, singing, dancing and coughing on each other. In general, any activity that brings people in close contact for extended periods of time can increase the risk for transmission of COVID-19.

Helping people avoid close contact with others, like you would with the seasonal flu, is an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These measures will help protect you, your family/whānau and all of New Zealand.

Criteria for allowing events and gatherings

This page refers to two types of events and gatherings:

  • a) Private events and gatherings - where you invite people to, or you are invited to, and where you know most people you are with, such as parties, weddings, dinners at restaurants. 
  • b) Public events and gatherings - where you are around strangers and may need to buy tickets to participate in.

Private events and gatherings can have up to 10 people. Public events organised by a business such as cinemas, theatres, stadiums, concert venues, conference venues and casinos are allowed up to 100 people if they have public health controls in place. Organisers of public events and gatherings should contact MBIE if they have any queries. 

Organisers of gatherings of any size need to assess the risk to attendees and the community using the following principles to determine whether or not to hold an event or gathering. 

If you aren’t able to do the following effectively, the event or gathering should not be held. 

  • Can your event support physical distancing?
  • Can your event allow for appropriate handwashing facilities, and keep communal areas such as bathrooms or high-touch surfaces such as door handles and payment machines clean?
  • Can you keep a record of attendance to enable health officials to do contact tracing if needed? 

An accurate record of attendees would include a person’s full name, their address, an effective means of communicating with them (for example, an active phone number or email address) and the time at which the person arrived and left the event. These records should be held for two months.  

A record of attendance in a private home is not required. 

Public events and gatherings at Alert Level 2

To slow the spread of COVID-19, public events organised by a business such as cinemas, theatres, stadiums, concert venues, conference venues and casinos are allowed up to 100 people, but every individual or group of 10 must be at least 1 metre apart. Organisers of private events and gatherings should contact MBIE if they have any queries. Requirements of public events and gatherings are:

  • Physical distancing must be followed
  • Details of attendees must be recorded for contact tracing purposes
  • Food and drink provided must meet hospitality provisions.

An accurate record of attendees would include a person’s full name, their address, an effective means of communicating with them (for example, an active phone number or email address) and the time at which the person arrived and left the event. These records should be held for two months and would be requested for health officials to undertake contact tracing if required.   

To protect people's health, organisers of public events and gatherings may wish to also limit events and gatherings to under two hours and have attendees seated to ensure physical distancing is followed. These are not requirements.

Private events and gatherings at Alert Level 2

Private events and gatherings must:

  • Have no more than 10 people
  • Ensure there are appropriate handwashing facilities, tissues and lined containers to dispose of used tissues
  • Encourage guests to practise physical distancing.

There is no time limit restriction for private events or gatherings but keeping them short (under two hours) is encouraged.

A record of attendance in a private home is not required but it is a good idea to try to note down who came to your gathering in case it’s needed in future.

You can’t participate in any gatherings if you have COVID-19 symptoms or if you need to be in isolation for any reason.

Gathering at your home

You can have friends and family over to your home, but gatherings are limited to up to 10 people. This includes the people who usually live in your house. If more than 10 people normally live in your house, then no more can join.

Play it safe — keep surfaces clean, wash your hands, and keep the numbers low so you can practice safe physical distancing.

Gathering outside your home

For many people, weddings, birthday parties and similar events are some of the most important events in their lives. They offer an opportunity to celebrate with loved ones.

In New Zealand we have seen the impact such gatherings can have in facilitating the spread of COVID-19, with several clusters linked to private events.

A restriction of no more than 10 people applies to these gatherings, as well as important considerations to protect the health of attendees.

You can attend private gatherings in controlled settings outside of your home. Private gatherings include:

  • Weddings
  • Family events
  • Religious services
  • Parties at private households
  • Group dinners, whether at a house or restaurant
  • Private functions, like a birthday
  • Funerals and tangihanga - find out more.

Physical distancing

At Alert Level 2, it is still important to be aware of your physical distancing. 

Physical distancing is important to help protect you and others from COVID-19, which spreads via droplets from coughing and sneezing. 

Physical distancing measures are different in uncontrolled and controlled environments and for people you live with, family/whānau and close friends. 

Uncontrolled environments – eg, supermarkets and other retail outlets, shopping malls, parks, and playgrounds. When out and about, keep at least a 2 metre distance from people you don’t know and where no record of attendees is being kept.

Controlled environments – these include places such as work, marae, church, clubs/groups, recreation and sports teams where a record of attendance is kept.  Keep at least a 1 metre distance between people you don’t live with or aren’t family/whānau and close friends. 

People you live with, family/whānau and close friends – you can have close physical contact but use your judgement about any risks to you or them and remember, the more space between you and others, the harder it is for the virus to spread. 

Attending events and gatherings

The following people should avoid attending events of any size:

  • anyone who is unwell
  • anyone who is a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19
  • anyone waiting for a test result for COVID-19
  • anyone who is self-isolating. Read more about self-isolation.

Health care workers should be extra vigilant with standard hygiene practices when attending gatherings that may put them at risk of transmission. Infected health care workers may impact the ability of the workforce to respond COVID-19 and place unnecessary stress on the health care system.

People at higher risk

When New Zealand was previously at Alert Level 2, people at higher risk were advised to avoid gatherings of any size to protect their own health and stay home as much as possible.

Because of the commitment by New Zealanders to adhering to restrictions at Alert Level 4 and 3, the overall risk to the public has reduced as there is no evidence of widespread community transmission. However, people at higher risk, are encouraged to take precautions when leaving home to protect your own health. Discuss with your employer or facility how you can leave home and return to work, school or university safely. You should still avoid large gatherings as much as possible.

How to minimise the risk of getting sick at a gathering or event of any size

The most important thing to do is practice good hygiene. This means:

  • Keeping 2 metres away from people you don’t know
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or coughing/sneezing into your elbow
  • Disposing of used tissues appropriately in a bin
  • Washing hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water and drying them thoroughly, or using hand sanitiser: 
    • before eating or handling food
    • after using the toilet
    • after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or wiping children’s noses
    • after touching public surfaces

The measures above are especially important for people who have existing health conditions, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease or compromised immune systems.

Workplaces

New Zealand is currently at Alert Level 2. This means people should work from home as much as possible and business continuity plans should be activated. Workplaces must keep a record of attendance and maintain physical distancing, as well as fulfilling all other health and safety obligations.

More information is available on the WorkSafe or Unite Against COVID-19 websites.

Schools and other education providers

New Zealand is currently at Alert Level 2. This means schools, early learning centres and tertiary education facilities can open. Tertiary education facilities can open but should continue to deliver comprehensive distance learning to students.

Learning can continue in classrooms, lecture theatres, labs and workplaces. Education providers should avoid non-essential events where large numbers of people are in close proximity for an extended period, or external guests are invited, such as assemblies, graduations, school plays and school balls. 

If a confirmed or probable case occurs in an educational facility, that facility may need to close for 72 hours to allow contact tracing and cleaning to occur, and may be closed for a longer duration.

The Ministry of Education will work with education facilities to provide guidance. 

Public transport and domestic travel

You can travel at Alert Level 2, but do it in a safe way. Do not use mass transport if you are a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, if you are required to self-isolate, if you are unwell or are awaiting a result from a test for COVID-19.

Public transport isn’t counted as a gathering as it facilitates people going to work, school, home and other places. This includes buses, trains, planes, ferries and the associated transport hubs.

Public transport operators should regularly clean high-touch surfaces such as handrails, seat handles, buzzers or buttons, touch screens etc.

When you travel, keep a record of where you have been, particularly if taking a longer journey or holiday.

More information is available from the Ministry of Transport or Unite Against COVID-19 websites.

Recreational and professional sport, including contact sport

Participating in sport and recreation activities is allowed, subject to overall limits on the number of people present, keeping a record of attendance and physical distancing as much as possible.

Any sport or recreational activity where people can maintain a 2 metre distance from others significantly reduces the risk for virus transmission. No record of attendance is required in these situations.

More information is available from the Sport New Zealand or Unite Against COVID-19 websites.

Refunds for events

In the first instance, please contact the event organiser. They will likely need some time to determine their process and obligations for any refunds, payment to suppliers etc.

Please be patient as they work through the process to meet any obligations they may have.

Reporting breaches

If you have concerns about a gathering of people or event that breaches the criteria, you can report a COVID-19 breach.

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