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by Helen Holt

An increase in the number of people allowed to gather indoors in South Canterbury has been described as the light at the end of the tunnel.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that New Zealanders in Alert Level 2 would be allowed 100 people at indoor venues from 11.59pm on Tuesday, double the 50-person limit that had been in place since September 7.

Richard Pearse Tavern and Armadillos Restaurant operations manager George Crosby said the loosened restrictions were the light at the end of the tunnel.

“Fingers crossed we get a good turnout, now that we’re allowed 100.”

Mr Crosby said the current Level 2 felt completely different from the previous times.

“We take a lot of pride in our gaming room.

“Often, people come here after work to relax, but with the mandatory masks, it became more of a chore for them than fun.

“The limit on people completely changed the vibe.

“We had to turn away quite a few people. It’s hard to make ends meet in a limit of 50 people when our usual capacity is up to 500.

“We take pride in keeping people safe. We want to be a friendly, safe environment.”

The Holy Family Parish is looking forward to having its first Sunday Mass since lockdown.

Fr Chris Friel said the increase in numbers for gatherings meant Sunday Mass could be held again at Sacred Heart Basilica.

St Thomas’ Church would have to wait for Level 1 as it was too small to meet physical distancing guidelines.

Since the start of Level 2, the parish had held weekday Mass, but had not been able to have Sunday Mass due to the 50-person limit.

Fr Friel was looking forward to welcoming everyone back.

“We like to have all our people in front of us. This Sunday will be like having the family back together again.”

Parishioners would continue to wear masks in the church.

“Masks are a big change.

“It’s not ideal, but the sooner we get rid of this bug, the sooner we will be back in Level 1.

“This Sunday will be Mass as usual, and it will great to have everyone back,” Fr Friel said.

Over the past two weeks, Aoraki Funeral Services had been able to accommodate up to 100 people at funerals by separating them into two rooms of 50.

The business got permission from the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand to have the funeral home split in half, with separate toilets, so it could hold more people, but still obey the guidelines.

Manager Sonia Sullivan said families had been great at following the rules in Level 2.

“All people want to do is hug each other.

“This time last year it was hard trying to police them to stay apart. This time around they have been really great at obeying the rules with distancing.”

She said it was a relief for families to move from Level 3.

“The families found it very hard to choose only 10 people to attend. Many of them waited or chose to have an online service instead.”

The business had about seven funerals waiting for Level 1.

“They’re for people who were quite well known and are expected to have 300 to 350 people attend.”