WELLINGTON, March 23 — New Zealand said today it will move to its highest alert level imposing self-isolation, with all-non-essential services, schools and offices to be shut over the next 48 hours as the number of coronavirus cases more than double.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said these decisions will place the most significant restriction on New Zealanders’ movements in modern history, but it was needed to save lives and slow the virus.
“We are all now preparing to go into self isolation as a nation,” Ardern said in a news conference. She added that without these measures tens of thousands of New Zealanders could die.
The number of coronavirus cases in New Zealand shot up to 102, more than double since Friday, as the country reported 36 new infections. New Zealand has had no deaths.
Ardern said the cabinet agreed that effective immediately, the country of 5 million people would move into alert level 3 nationwide, and after 48 hours it will be at the highest level 4. New Zealand has already closed its borders to foreigners.
Ardern said all bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public congregate must close their face-to-face function.
She said supermarkets, doctors, pharmacies, service stations, access to essential banking services will all be available throughout New Zealand at every alert level.
“If you do not have immediate needs, do not go to the supermarket. It will be there for you today, tomorrow, and the day after that,” she added.
The move comes after neighbouring Australia, which has thousands of Covid-19 cases, started lockdown measures on Monday, but has stopped short of self-isolation.
New Zealand’s bourse reacted immediately to the announcement plunging 10 per cent to biggest intraday percentage drop ever.
Finance Minister Grant Robertson said all rents will be freezed and the government will announce further support for the economy in the coming days.
“To be absolutely clear we are now asking all New Zealanders who are outside essential services to stay at home, and to stop all interactions with others outside of those in your household,” Ardern said.
Schools will be closed from tomorrow, except for children of essential workers such as our doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and police. Schools will close entirely from midnight Wednesday.
All indoor and outdoor events will be cancelled. All workplaces were asked to implement alternative ways of working.
Public transport will shut for everyone outside of people working in essential services.
To stop community transmission these measures will need to be in place for 4 weeks, said Ardern.
Coronavirus: Can New Zealand follow Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong in containing the spread?
04:30, Mar 21 2020
As coronavirus runs rampant around the globe, several Asian countries have managed to limit its spread within their borders. Experts say New Zealand still has the chance to follow their lead, but it may require drastic measures. MICHAEL WRIGHT reports.
As New Zealand rushes to contain the spread of coronavirus, Kiwis have quickly become very familiar with some hitherto unfamiliar ideas. “Flatten the curve” entered our lexicon. We accepted unprecedented restrictions on our ability to travel and gather in large groups.
And we have been told, over and over again, that there are certain countries in the world whose actions we must now emulate if we are to keep the effects of a pandemic on our society and economy to a minimum. Those countries, in no particular order, are Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.
Each country has faced the threat of Covid-19 for much longer than New Zealand, with the added challenges of greater population density and proximity to mainland China, where the virus originated. While other nations have watched their infection rates and death tolls soar, these three have managed to keep case numbers admirably low.
By March 20, Singapore, which identified its first case two months earlier, sat at just 345 cases reported to the World Health Organisation and no deaths. Hong Kong (208 cases, four deaths) and Taiwan (108, one death) were even further down the list. New Zealand, which as of March 20 has no confirmed cases of community transmission, is in the enviable position of being able to follow these trajectories and contain a virus that is rampant in many Western countries.
New Zealand enforces mandatory self-isolation for travellers entering the country
New Zealand will require all internationally arriving people – including returning Kiwis – to self-isolate for a fortnight as the country locks down to ward off the spread of coronavirus.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the measure on Saturday after an emergency meeting of cabinet.
“We do not take these decisions lightly,” she said.
“New Zealand will have the widest-ranging and toughest border restrictions of anyone in the world.”
Ms Ardern said the measure applied to people, and not goods, though gave an exemption to people arriving from the Pacific – a region largely devoid of the virus.
The decisions will take effect as of midnight NZDT on Sunday.
New Zealand has just six cases of the disease to date, and none that have been transmitted through the community.
Ms Ardern also announced cruise ships would not be allowed to dock in New Zealand until June.
The decision will be reviewed in 16 days.
Wellington has its first case of Covid-19. Imported from Australia.
An Australian man is self-isolating in Wellington after testing positive to coronavirus.
Townsville Dance Teacher Andre Reynaud was tested by Queensland Health after returning from a trip to France, but flew to New Zealand before receiving results of the test.
Reynaud flew from Brisbane to Wellington on Air New Zealand flight 828, landing at 12:05am Saturday morning.
“I’m surprised and disappointed that he took the flight,” Ministry of Health Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.
“Our public health authorities immediately kicked into action to find that person, and to identify and follow up any contacts,” Bloomfield said.
“The man is now symptom-free, and remains in self-isolation with his partner and another family member. They are both well and working closely with public health staff.
Bloomfield said public health staff were checking with their Australian counterparts to see what advice Reynaud was given before flying to New Zealand.
Reynaud told The NZ Herald he learned he had tested positive while having breakfast with his son at a Wellington cafe.
“From there I went straight back to my hotel room and got in contact with health authorities,” he said.
Bloomfield said he was not aware which cafe Reynaud had been at, but it was unlikely there was a high level of risk to other patrons.
Reynaud’s workplace, Ann Roberts School of Dance, said he had been in contact with four other staff members on Thursday afternoon, but no students.
The four staff members were all self-isolating in Townsville.
Billionaires looking for a bolthole safe from the spread of coronavirus have been eyeing up New Zealand.
An official said there had been a “small upswing” in private jets arriving in Queenstown.
In Auckland, long-time real estate agent to the wealthy, Graham Wall, was helping two billionaires.
“I’ve had calls from people wanting to come here. One lot of Americans we’ve just taken around [properties] in the Bay of Islands.
“They think New Zealand looks the best place to ride out the virus.”
US president Donald Trump yesterday declared a national emergency as cases continued to rise and public life ground to a halt as schools closed, top sport was suspended and Broadway shut its doors.
New Zealand has so far escaped the community transmission which triggered skyrocketing numbers of sick in other countries, such as Italy and Iran.
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