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Covid-19

Description of the measures taken to achieve “social distancing” (curfew, lockdown, mandatory shop closures, duration etc) and how these measures are accepted by the public

New Zealand has four level Covid-19 alert system that specifies public health and social measures to be taken against Covid-19. These measures are updated on the basis of new scientific knowledge about Covid-19, and information about the effectiveness of intervention measures in New Zealand and elsewhere. The alert levels may be applied at a town, city, territorial local authority, regional or national level.

In general, the alert levels are cumulative. So for example, Level 1 is a base-level response.

At all levels, health services, emergency services, utilities and goods transport and other essential services are expected to remain up and running. The 4 alert levels are summarised below:

Level 1 – Prepare: this level is introduced if there is a heightened risk of importing Covid-19 or there are sporadic imported cases or isolated household transmissions associated with imported cases.

Level 1 measures include restricting border entry to minimise the risk of importing Covid-19 cases, contact tracing, stringent self-isolation and quarantine, intensive testing for Covid-19, encouraging physical distancing, and washing and drying hands regularly.

Level 2 – Reduce: this level is introduced when disease is contained but there is a growing risk of community transmission (for example, when there is a high risk of importing Covid-19 or increase in imported cases or household transmission or single or isolated cluster outbreak).

Level 2 measures include restricting mass gatherings, physical distancing on public transport, limiting non-essential travel around New Zealand, employers looking into alternative ways of working (e.g. remote working, shift based working or physical distancing within the workplace), and advising high risk people to remain at home.

Level 3 – Restrict: this level is introduced when there is a heightened risk that disease is not contained – for example, there is a community transmission occurring or multiple clusters breaking out.

Level 3 measures include limiting traveling in areas with clusters or community transmission, closing affected educational facilities, public venues and some of the non-essential businesses and requiring alternative ways of working, deferring non-acute services and procedures in hospitals and reprioritising healthcare staff.

Level 4 – Eliminate: this level is introduced when the disease is not likely contained – for example, there is a sustained and intensive transmission or widespread outbreaks.

Level 4 measures include instructing people to stay home, closing educational facilities, closing all non-essential businesses, rationing supplies and requisitioning facilities, severely limiting travel and major reprioritisation of healthcare services.

On 26 March 2020 the Government raised the alert level for Covid-19 to Level 4, and mandated a lockdown throughout the country, which is expected to last at least four weeks. 

These measures appear to be well received by the public in general. New Zealand Civil Defence said most New Zealanders have been obeying the rules around the country’s lockdown although there were isolated incidents of people congregating. Those people were spoken to and advised about what the restrictions mean.  Further, New Zealanders have an option of calling the police or filling out an online form to report breaching of the rules relating to the Covid-19 lockdown.