In a situation never before faced in New Zealand’s history — indeed the world’s — every service and business nationwide, except for essential services, has been halted.
Schools and non-essential services across New Zealand are closed for at least the next four weeks.
The Government has put the country in nationwide lockdown to try to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged the magnitude of the measures on Monday, but said they would save the lives of tens of thousands of New Zealanders.
The country’s coronavirus alert level was raised to level 3 on Tuesday, and level 4 today.
Level 4 — “stay at home” instructions, schools and businesses closed except essential services, severely limited travel — and will remain in place for a minimum of four weeks.
“Kiwis — go home . . . If in doubt, don’t go out,” Ardern said. “I have a very keen sense of the magnitude of this moment in New Zealand’s history and we did not take this decision lightly.
Essential services would still be open at all alert levels, she 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.
“We can stop the spread by staying home and reducing contact.”
From yesterday, all bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries and other places where people gather together should be closed.
“Gatherings, indoors or out, and of any shape or size, must be cancelled. This means weddings, birthday celebrations and other gatherings,” Ardern said.
Essential services will remain open, such as supermarkets, banks, GPs, pharmacies, service stations, couriers and other important frontline service providers.
“Workplaces should have everyone working from home. Essential services will stay open, but must put in place alternative ways of working including physical distancing of staff of 2m.”
All schools closed yesterday except those attended by children of people working in essential services, so they wouldn’t have to make emergency childcare arrangements. All schools close from midnight Wednesday.
The modelling presented to Cabinet on Monday 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 was moving at pace — “and so must we”.
“These measures will be in place for four weeks at this point.” She urged people to “be kind”.
“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 2m distance between you.
When people were visiting essential services, physical distancing should be practised.
Crowds thinned out in the Hastings CBD after the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday afternoon.