We are in a state of national emergency and in lockdown. Here are the things New Zealanders need to know.
- From midnight 25 March until further notice, you must stay at home unless you are an essential services worker or need to get essential services. This is to prevent Covid-19 spreading further in New Zealand.
- 708 confirmed and probable cases of Covid-19 at 1 April - we may see thousands of cases. One person has died.
- You will still be able to go buy food from the supermarket, get health care, go for a walk in your local area, and exercise outdoors. Supermarkets will be closed on Good Friday, open Easter Sunday.
- Courier services, public transport and taxis/ride share services like Ola are operational for essential services.
- Outside the home, you must be two metres away from anyone (except those from your household).
- If you feel unwell for any reason, stay at home.
Covid-19 cases will rise
The majority of cases are still related to overseas travel or close contact with an infected person. A new case definition for doctors, which requires testing people who present with respiratory problems even if they haven't travelled or had contact with a confirmed case, will mean case numbers will rise.
It's still too early to know if the lockdown measures are slowing down transmission, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters today.
About one percent of cases is due to community transmission.
We will have a clearer picture of whether community transmission is significant in two weeks, Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay said.
“If community transmission takes off in New Zealand the number of cases will double every five days. If that happens unchecked, our health system will be inundated, and thousands of New Zealanders will die," said Ardern.
"In the short term the number of cases will likely rise because the virus is already in our community. But these new measures can slow the virus down and prevent our health system from being overwhelmed and ultimately save lives."
Ardern said New Zealanders still on their way home from overseas will be screened when they arrive. "Our citizens coming home are the ones carrying Covid-19."
If symptomatic, they will be quarantined in an approved facility. If not, they must self-isolate and have a detailed self-isolation plan. Those who have nowhere to isolate or can't get home (e.g arrive in Auckland but live in Wellington) will also be quarantined. No foreign travellers can enter the country.
Globally, there are more than 840,000 cases and more than 40,000 deaths. The majority of deaths are in Italy.
We are at emergency alert Level 4
The Government has declared an emergency alert at Level 4 until at least 22 April. This could be extended, depending on how diligently New Zealanders stick to the 'stay at home' message.
In short: we are in self isolation as a nation.
"We are fortunate to still be some way behind the majority of overseas countries in terms of cases, but the trajectory is clear," said Ardern.
"Act now, or risk the virus taking hold as it has elsewhere."
Ardern implored people to stay home and act like you have Covid-19: "Every move you make could be a risk to someone else."
A State of Emergency has been declared and enables special powers to maintain safety and stability, said Director General of Civil Defence Sarah Stuart-Black.
Essential services, like supermarkets, will be running but physical distancing must be maintained.
"If you do not have immediate needs, do not go to the supermarket," said Ardern. "It will be there for you today, tomorrow, and the day after that. We must give time for supermarkets to restock their shelves, there will be enough for everyone if we shop normally."
"We need as many businesses as possible to close now if our one shot at beating the virus is to be successful," said MBIE deputy chief executive Paul Stocks.
Ardern said the lockdown measures will save lives - medical modelling shows tens of thousands of New Zealanders could die if we don't stay at home.
You can still get food
At all alert levels, essential services - supermarkets, doctors, dairies, vets, pet stores, emergency services and police, rubbish collection, petrol stations, internet services, pharmacies - will be operating. You must follow physical distancing rules. Countries that have imposed lockdowns have different rules.
Supermarkets will be closed on Good Friday (10 April) to give essential workers a break and a chance to restock. They will be open on Easter Sunday.
Foodstuffs South Island chief executive Steve Anderson urged people to "shop normally". New Zealand's supply chain is robust and there is enough food supply, but supermarket staff are feeling huge pressure trying to restock shelves at the moment, he says.
A spokesperson for Countdown supermarkets, Kiri Hannifin, told Radio NZ that the supermarket chain is selling three times as much toilet paper in a day than it would in a week - and restocking is a waste of space in trucks which could be carrying food.
Restaurants, bars and cafes must be closed at alert Levels 3 and 4. Public transport will still be operating but will only be available for essential workers and people accessing essential services (like going to the supermarket, for example).
Dairies can be open as long as they stick to the one-in-one-out customer rule. Self-service laundries can stay open, with the two metre rule. Food delivery is prohibited, except meals-on-wheels and whole food delivery (eg subscription food boxes).
Big box stores like Mitre 10 are closed to the general public and only open to trade customers for essential purposes. The Warehouse must close. Liquor stores must close, unless they are within Licensing Trust areas.
You can still go outside in your local area - but keep your distance
GIF by Siouxsie Wiles & Toby Morris republished from The Spinoff under CC-BY-SA
"We are asking that you only spend time with those you are in self isolation with," said Ardern.
"And if you are outside, keep your distance from others. That means two metres at all times. This is the single most important thing we can do right now to stop further community transmission."
Police commissioner Mike Bush advised people to only go out in their cars to get essential supplies or services.
But if you want to drive to a park in your neighbourhood, that is ok, but behave like you have Covid-19, he said.
"There should be no driving around the streets unless you have a very good reason; if you need medical assistance, or you're an essential worker, or you need food."
"Don't be driving willy-nilly all over town."
Police can detain people if they don't comply with the Level 4 restrictions.
The key message during lockdown is stay home:
- Staying at home is meant to reduce the transmission of the virus.
- For this to work, you are asked to only have contact with the people you live with.
- If you want to talk to a friend, call or video chat with them.
- If you want to talk to a neighbour, do it over the fence.
- Please note that children CAN travel between the homes of separated parents so as long as they live in the same town/city.
- Feel free to drop off groceries to others e.g. a grandma, but keep a 2 metre distance for her safety.
There is a new Government website for all Covid-19 information
Visit covid19.govt.nz to get the latest information and advice from the Government.
You can't travel by air from midnight 25 March
During lockdown, New Zealanders can't fly anywhere. At Level 4, only 'essential' people can travel.
Financial assistance is available
The Government announced a $12.1 billion dollar relief package to counter the economic impact of the coronavirus, including measures to help businesses pay their staff.
All employers affected by Covid-19 will now be able to apply for the existing subsidy to support the wages of all of their workers.
Wash and dry your hands properly, often
Wash your hands with soap as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice or the chorus of Dolly Parton's hit song Jolene. Dry them thoroughly.
The symptoms of Covid-19
- a cough
- a fever (at least 38°C)
- shortness of breath.
These symptoms don't necessarily mean you have Covid-19. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that are much more common, such as cold and flu. Shortness of breath is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention. The vast majority of people infected with Covid-19 will have mild symptoms.
We don’t yet know how long symptoms take to show after a person has been infected, but current World Health Organisation assessments suggest that it is 2–10 days.
Covid-19, like the flu, can be spread from person to person. When a person who has the virus coughs, sneezes or talks, they may spread droplets containing the virus a short distance, which quickly settle on surrounding surfaces.
You may get infected by the virus if you touch those surfaces or objects and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes.
That’s why it’s really important to use good hygiene, regularly wash and thoroughly dry your hands, and use good cough etiquette.
Stay home if you feel unwell, whether you think it is Covid-19 or not.
There is currently no vaccine
As this is a new virus, there is no vaccine available. Researchers are in the early stages of developing one. There is no specific treatment for Covid-19 but medical care can treat most of the symptoms.
Protect yourself and others
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow or by covering your mouth and nose with tissues.
- Put used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately.
- Wash your hands with soap and water often (for at least 20 seconds).
- Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
- Avoid personal contact, such as kissing, sharing cups or food with sick people.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.
- Stay home if you feel unwell.
- Call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you have Covid-19 symptoms and have been to any countries or territories of concern or have been in close contact with someone confirmed with Covid-19.
Ring the dedicated Healthline number, 0800 358 5453, for Covid-19 health advice.
If you feel you are not coping, it is important to talk with a health professional. You can call or text 1737 – free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor. This is New Zealand’s national mental health & addictions helpline number.
Sources: Government media briefings; Ministry of Health; WHO; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Travel
Note: This article is being updated regularly.