ZB

What does Covid-19 Alert level 4 mean for New Zealand?

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 23 Mar 2020, 4:37pm
Jacinda Ardern announced the lockdown today. (Photo / NZ Herald)
Jacinda Ardern announced the lockdown today. (Photo / NZ Herald)

What does Covid-19 Alert level 4 mean for New Zealand?

Author
Newstalk ZB / NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 23 Mar 2020, 4:37pm

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today New Zealand was at Covid-19 level 3 rising to level 4 on Wednesday, lasting at least four weeks.

It comes as the number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 102, with 36 new cases since Sunday.

Schools and non-essential services across New Zealand will be closed as part of the measures as the Government today put the country in lockdown to try to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Ardern said these moves would save the lives of tens of thousands of New Zealanders.

Alert level 3, effective immediately, means there is a risk of the potentially deadly virus not being contained, with either community transmission of the virus or multiple clusters breaking out.

Level 4 means people are instructed to stay at home, schools and universities closed, as well as non-essential businesses, major reprioritisation of health services, and severely limited travel.

Essential services will be open at all alert levels, but level 3 means limited travel in areas with clusters of Covid-19 cases, affected educational facilities closed, mass gatherings cancelled, public venues closed (such as libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, amusement parks), some non-essential businesses closed, and non face-to-face primary care consultations, with non-elective services and procedures in hospitals deferred.

Level 4 means people are instructed to stay at home, schools and universities closed, as well as non-essential businesses, major reprioritisation of health services, and severely limited travel.

"All indoor and outdoor events cannot proceed," Ardern said.

"In short, we are all now preparing as a nation to go into self-isolation in the same way we have seen other countries do. Staying at home is essential."

That would give the health system a chance to cope, she said.

While in alert level 4, Ardern said contact tracing would continue and testing would go on "at pace" to find out where cases are.

If we flush out cases we already have, and slow down transmission, areas could move out of level 4, she said.

Community transmission had a lag time, and these measures would be in place for at least four weeks, she said.

She repeated that pharmacy products will still be available, and supermarkets would stay open.

Workplaces now had to change, while essential services had to ensure a 2m physical distance between people. Schools would close from tomorrow, except for those people who work in essential services with kids at schools.

All schools would close from Wednesday, she said.

All New Zealanders not in essential services are now being asked to stay at home, but leaving the house for exercise or for a walk was still allowed.

"It must be solitary," she said, and being outside meant to be keep a 2m distance from others.

 

Until Wednesday, New Zealand will be at alert level 3.

Public venues will be closed under level 3, with alternative ways of working to be found and some non-essential businesses should close.

There will be no face-to-face primary care consultations and elective surgeries and procedures deferred and healthcare staff reprioritised.

Health services, emergency services, utilities and goods transport, and other essential services are expected to remain up and running at all stages.

People will still be able to go to the supermarket, fill their car at fuel stations and collect medicine from pharmacies.

Seeing a family member for lunch or hanging out with friends would risk keeping New Zealand at level 4 for longer, she said.

"I do not underestimate what I am asking New Zealanders to do. It is huge. And I know it will feel daunting."

Without these measures, up to tens of thousands of people could die, according to medical modelling considered by Cabinet today.

"The worst case scenario is simply intolerable," she said.

It would be the greatest loss of life to a single event in New Zealand's history.

"I hope that you are all with me on that decision," the Prime Minister said today.

She said the Government had done all it could to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and now the Government was asking the New Zealand public to do the same.

The measures would hit the economy hard, but they were necessary, she said.