New Zealand is moving to a near-complete societal lockdown within 48 hours as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern aims to seize on a “window of opportunity” to contain the new coronavirus.
Ms Ardern told reporters at Parliament in Wellington on Monday afternoon that now was the time “to put our plans into action,” she said.
New Zealand has moved to “alert level 3” and soon to level 4 which means people will be instructed to stay at home, educational facilities close and all businesses will close except for essential services like supermarkets, pharmacies and clinics.
“We need to act now, or risk the virus taking hold as it has elsewhere … we currently have 102 cases, but so did Italy once.
“We are preparing as a nation to go into self-isolation,” she said.
In a move which is being seen as a step further than other countries including Australia, New Zealand has also ordered cafes and restaurants to cease offering a takeaway option within 48 hours.
“Non-essential businesses in New Zealand now close. All bars, restaurants, cafes, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds, any other place where the public congregate, must close their face-to-face function.
“Over the next 48 hours, those who provide, for instance, takeaway services, must move to close their operations also. All indoors and outdoor events cannot proceed.
“In short, we are all now preparing as a nation to go into self-isolation in the same way that we have seen many other countries do.
Earlier on Monday, the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield announced 36 new confirmed cases, including two community transmissions, taking the overall number of positive tests to 102.
“While the majority of these cases continue to be linked to overseas travel in some way, I can also confirm, as did the Director-General of Health, that we have two cases where public health officials have been unable to find how they came in contact with COVID-19.
“On that basis, we now consider there is transmission within our communities.”
“We are fortunate to still be some way behind the majority of overseas countries in terms of cases, but the trajectory is very clear. Act now or risk the virus taking hold. We currently have 102 cases, but so did Italy once. Now the virus has overwhelmed their health system and hundreds of people are dying every day.
“The situation here is moving at pace and so must we. We have always said we would act early, decisively, and go hard, and we will,” Ms Ardern said.
“If community transmission takes off, the number of cases will double every five days, if that happens unchecked, our health system will be inundated and tens of thousands of New Zealanders will die.
“There is no easy way to say that, but it is the reality that we have seen overseas and the possibility that we may face here.
“Together, we must stop that from happening, and we can. Right now, we have a window of opportunity to break the chain of community transmission. To contain the virus, to stop it multiplying and to protect New Zealanders from the worst.
“Our plan is simple, we can stop the spread by staying at home and reducing contact. Now is the time to act.
“Staying at home is essential. It’s a simple, but highly effective, way to constrain the virus.”