Schools and non-essential services across New Zealand will be closed for at least the next four weeks after the Government put the country in nationwide lockdown to try to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged the magnitude of the measures as she announced them today, but said they could save the lives of tens of thousands of New Zealanders.
The country’s coronavirus alert level would be raised to level 3 immediately.
In 48 hours the alert level would be raised to level 4 – “stay at home” instruction, schools and businesses closed except essential services, severely limited travel – and will remain in place for a minimum of four weeks.
The Prime Minister’s Office has confirmed that Alert Level 4 will take effect from 11.59pm on Wednesday.
Essential services would still be open at both alert levels, she said.
“Kiwis – go home … If in doubt, don’t go out,” Ardern said of level 4.
WHAT LEVEL 4 MEANS
Once level 4 is in place, all New Zealanders not in essential services will be asked to stay at home.
“I understand that self isolation is a daunting prospect,” Ardern said.
“You can leave your home for fresh air, a walk, exercise. To take your children outside. But remember the simple principle. It must be solitary.
“We are asking that you only spend time with those you are in self isolation with. And if you are outside, keep your distance from others. That means 2 meters at all times. This is the single most important thing we can do right now to stop further community transmission.”
Public transport will only be open to those working in essential services, for medical reasons, or to move essential goods – including ferry services between the North and South Island.
The modelling presented to Cabinet today showed that Covid-19 could see the greatest loss of life in a single event in New Zealand’s history.
“The worst-case scenario is simply intolerable,” Ardern said.
“The situation here is moving at pace, and so must we.
“Get your neighbour’s phone number, set up a community group chat, get your gear to work from home, cancel social gatherings of any size or shape, prepare to walk around the block while keeping a two-metre distance between you.
“These measures will be in place for four weeks at this point.”
Ardern said regions could then have alert level 4 eased, depending on how Covid-19 was present in those areas.
“If you hang out with that friend at a park or see that family member for lunch, you risk spreading Covid-19 and extending everyone’s time in level 4.”