GHOST TOWN

Hastings Leader - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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