Coronavirus: New Zealand's alert level 4 lockdown has been extended

Publish Date
Monday, 20 April 2020, 4:09PM

The Prime Minister has just announced New Zealand will move to alert level 3 of lockdown from Monday 27 April, at 11.59pm.

Alert level 3 will be held for two weeks and then Cabinet will assess whether to move down another level.

The country has been in an alert level 4 lockdown for just under four weeks and was initially expected to stay in lockdown until 11.59pm on Wednesday 22 April.

Lifting late on Monday - a public holiday because of Anzac Day - was also recommended by Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

New Zealand has done what few countries had managed to do; we have crushed Covid-19 - we have a transmission rate of 0.48%, which is one of the lowest in the world, she said.

Nearly every case is a result of overseas travel, an already confirmed case or a cluster.

Only 8 cases can't be traced to their source.

Random testing in communities had tested more than 1000 people and none had tested positive.

Bloomfield is sure there is no widespread community transmission, she said.

"We have broken the chain," Ardern said.

Alert level 3 still has many restrictions and does not allow more social activity though allowing more commerce to re-open.

Ardern reminded the country of the principles of alert level 3:

  • Stay home.
  • Work and learn from home if you can.
  • Make your business Covid-19 safe.
  • Stay regional.
  • Keep your bubble as small as possible.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and cough into your elbow.
  • If you're sick, stay home and get advice from a GP and do that quickly.

How will alert level 3 look?

BUSINESSES AND WORKPLACES

Work from home if you can, is the message from Ardern to employers.

Where that is not possible, businesses may re-open but must comply with health and safety requirements around physical distancing and contactless engagement with customers.

Businesses only accessed by the staff, and without a customer-facing function, such as building and construction or forestry can open under strict health and safety and physical distancing rules.

Businesses that are accessed by the public or customers such as retail, hardware stores and restaurants can open but only for online or phone purchases and contactless delivery or click and collect.

SOCIAL DISTANCING

Keep your bubble but you can expand it "a small amount" at level 3, Ardern said.

People must stay within their immediate household bubble, but can expand this to reconnect with close family / whānau, or bring in caregivers, or support isolated people.

This extended bubble should remain exclusive.

Sticking to existing bubbles is recommended but some expansion is allowed if, for example, you have a caregiver that you need, children in shared care, a defacto partner who is caring for others, or you're a single person who wants the company of a sibling for example. Keep it exclusive and keep it small.

Funerals and weddings will be able to go ahead, but limited to 10 people. But they can only be services. No meals, food or receptions can take place.

Public venues are closed (e.g. libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, playgrounds, markets).

SCHOOLS

Early childhood centres and schools will be available up to Year 10 only, but attendance is purely voluntary.

For children who are able, distance learning is still the best option.

Tertiary education will mostly be through distance learning.

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New Zealand's biggest university will run all courses remotely until Semester 2 starts in July - regardless of the Covid-19 alert level - fearing moving in and out of different alert levels will be too disruptive.

University of Auckland vice-chancellor Professor Dawn Freshwater told students last Thursday this would remain the case in alert level 3 or even in the unlikely event New Zealand moved quickly to alert level 2.

RECREATION

You can do activities that are local, which you can do safely, and which do not involve interacting with other people, or equipment touched by other people.

You should go to your nearest beach or park, not your favourite one.

Boating and jet skis are still banned because they can be prone to breakdown.

But you can swim, surf and fish from the shore.

But don't start a new activity that you haven't done before.

If there are signs of congregation, this rule will be reconsidered so Kiwis shouldn't consider it a time to catch-up with all their swimming buddies, Ardern said.

Staying overnight at a bach or holiday home is not permitted.

HEALTHCARE

Healthcare services should use virtual, non-contact consultations where possible.

People at high risk of severe illness (older people and those with existing medical conditions) are encouraged to stay at home where possible, and take additional precautions when leaving home. They may choose to work.

Primary care will continue to be open, Allied Health and dentists will open.

TRAVEL

Travel restrictions remain but move from local to regional.

This recognises that more people will travel to work, or to take children to school. But to avoid taking potential COVID-19 cases to other parts of the country, restricting movement to what is necessary remains the goal.

Inter-regional travel is highly limited (for example for essential workers, with limited exemptions for others).

If you were in the wrong place when the restrictions came into place, and need to get home, you can now move throughout New Zealand to do so. You can only move once, and in one direction. New Zealanders can move to or from the Cook Islands, Niue, and Tokelau once, and in one direction.

 

This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission.