Strategic shift from mitigation to suppression of Covid-19

New Zealand appears to be shifting from mitigation (“flatten the curve”) of the Covid-19 to “one of stamping it out and elimination” of the coronavirus until a vaccine is developed – “which is at least January 2021″.

From WRITTEN BRIEFING TO THE EPIDEMIC RESPONSE COMMITTEE (from John Ombler, All of Government Controller)

Standing up the national response to COVID-19

1. In the two months since the National Security System was first established in response to COVID-19 (January 27), there have been several significant and fast paced actions taken to ensure the leadership and organisation of the national response to COVID-19 is appropriately configured for the magnitude of the event. These actions have been taken to:

  • respond to the growing magnitude of the challenge that COVID-19 presents to New Zealand and New Zealanders
  • respond to a strategic shift from mitigation or “flatten the curve” approach to the current stamp it out and elimination strategy
  • broaden and deepen the national effort to increase the pace of delivery for a series of critical interventions and measures.

9. We have made a key strategic shift from a strategy of mitigation to one of stamping it out and elimination. We do not want to end up in a scenario of widespread outbreaks which would significantly overwhelm the health system, as we have seen in Italy, Spain and other countries that have experienced extensive outbreaks. Our current strategy centres around breaking the chain of community transmission through tougher public health measures, in particular intense physical distancing and travel restrictions, which are set out in Alert Level 4.

10. The strategy does incur significant economic and social disruption, but if we are successful at eliminating COVID-19 from New Zealand we will have better economic and social outcomes. Widespread outbreaks would lead to major health, economic and social impacts for New Zealand.

COVID-19 Mitigation versus suppression

  • Our strategy is focusing on keeping COVID-19 out, stamping it out and slowing it down.
  • Our aim is to prevent widespread outbreaks. Allowing widespread outbreaks (ie trajectories along the orange and blue curves (‘flattening the curve’)) will significantly overwhelm the health system.
  • The strategy centres on border restrictions, intense testing, aggressive contact tracing, and stringent self-isolation and quarantine.
  • Physical distancing will also be required to varying degrees as we continue along this path.
  • We can call this a suppression strategy.
  • Should outbreaks occur, a suppression strategy aims to reverse epidemic growth through tougher public health measures – eg by more intense physical distancing and travel restrictions.
  • The aim is to ensure that health system capacity is not exceeded through strengthening public health measures.
  • When cases fall, public health measures can be eased slightly.
  • This cycle repeats itself (refer squiggly green line).
  • However, we must still prepare for times when capacity of the health system is exceeded by having ‘surge’ options.
  • A suppression strategy does incur significant economic and social disruption. Longer periods of physical distancing, including school closures, will be required.
  • However, many lives will be saved and more people remain well so are able to operate the economy and the health care system.
  • We would need to maintain this approach until a vaccine is developed, which is at least January 2021, and/or the global pandemic has passed.
  • This approach is distinct from a mitigation strategy, which focuses on reducing the size of the peak (ie moving from the orange curve to the blue curve).

Covid-19 update – first NZ death reported

The Prime Minister and Director-General of Health are holding a joint press conference at Parliament today (PM Ardern has been having a separate one later in the afternoon).

 

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield (who had his first day off for a while yesterday) case update:

First death from Covid-19 on the West Coast, a woman in her seventies. She was admitted to hospital with what was thought to be influenza they were well known to the hospital due to other health conditions. When she was initially treated staff were not fully Covid protected, so 21 staff have been put in 14 day isolation (that makes it tough on health staffing).

Dr Bloomfield says that in preparation for Covid all hospitals have stopped elective surgery and other non-urgent work so are running at about 50% capacity, so staffing levels aren’t a concern.

63 new cases in the last 24 hours (up to 9 am Sunday) – so this is a lower increase than for the lastt few days, but this doesn’t mean a general downturn. It could still rise again.

56 now recovered.

9 in hospital, 1 in ICU on a ventilator.

The combined total of cases is now 514.

Summary

As at 9.00 am, 29 March 2020
Total to date New in last 24 hours
Number of confirmed cases in New Zealand 476 60
Number of probable cases 38 3
Number of confirmed and probable cases 514 63
Number of cases in hospital 9 (28 total to date)
Number of recovered cases 56 6
Number of deaths 1

View full details of the confirmed cases.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

The first death brings home why the measures have been taken to stop the spread.

“It is critical we all stay at home to stop the spread.”

Ardern is critical of online bullying of people who have contracted Covid-19.

Some people have been flouting restrictions. This puts others at risk, and risks extending the lockdown period.

Police have launched an online form  to report breaches of home isolation at 105 Police Non-Emergency Supporting Information

(More details when they post them online)

In an emergency, always call 111.

You can now report to Police online

  • Suspected COVID-19 L4 isolation breaches
  • Businesses you suspect are breaching the essential services rule.

Before making your report, please refer to information from the Ministry of Health about self-isolation(link is external) the Government guidelines about Essential businesses(link is external).

To complete this report you will need to provide your name and email address so we can contact you if required.

Start your COVID-19 L4 breach report

Police non-emergencies

For all other Police non-emergencies that don’t need urgent Police assistance, please refer below.

Please read the information in the ‘Assistance required’ options listed below for the best way to report a non-emergency, get advice or request something – before making an online report. This will help us work though the high volume of online reports resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

When making an online report please note:

  • You will need to provide a date of birth, email address and phone number to complete this report.
  • Please allow up to 10 minutes to complete this report.
  • The report cannot be saved to complete later.

 

Trump considers quarantine as Covid-19 keeps climbing in US and world

|Earlier this week President Donald Trump said he wanted business and congregations back to normal by Easter Sunday, but with Covid-19 cases and deaths climbing in the US he is now considering imposing quarantines in some areas. However the horse may have already bolted, with a lot of people movement around the country over the last couple of weeks, and new cases and deaths surging.

Cases in the US currently are 105,573 (UPDATE half an hour later 112,468), with deaths now at 1,841 and climbing by hundreds each day.

NHS medical director: if the UK were to keep the number of deaths from coronavirus below 20,000, “we will have done very well”.

On Tuesday Trump’s Easter goal in war on virus a nod to faith, business

President Donald Trump’s “beautiful” idea to reopen the U.S. economy by Easter Sunday and pack church pews that day was dreamed up during a conference call among business leaders desperate to get the country back up and running.

But his target date for easing coronavirus restrictions is another outstretched hand to a group he has long courted: evangelical Christians.

Cooped up at the White House and watching the stock market tumble, Trump had already been eager to ease federal guidelines aimed at halting the spread of a virus that had infected more than 55,000 Americans when about a dozen business leaders convened a conference call on Sunday.

His rush to get back to business as usual was questioned – Trump’s plan to reopen the economy by Easter could cause more damage in the long run, according to LinkedIn’s top US economist

However, framing America’s response as a direct trade-off between the health of its people and the health of its economy could ultimately harm both, according to LinkedIn principal economist Guy Berger.

“There’s no economy without people, so getting them healthy is the way to get the economy off the ground,” Berger told Business Insider.

“That’s why the public health measures are so important and why they’re essential, even though they’re hard in the short run, that’s the only way to really end up rebooting the economy,” he said.

Easing lockdowns and social distancing measures too early, while the virus is still spreading rapidly, could ultimately cause more people to get sick, forcing them out of the workforce and causing an even more negative impact on the economy.

The message must have got through to Trump about the risk – to health, lives and to business – of rushing back to no restrictions.

Fox News: Trump mulls coronavirus quarantine on New York, New Jersey, Connecticut

“Some people would like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hotspot — New York, New Jersey, maybe one or two other places, certain parts of Connecticut quarantined,” he said outside the White House.

“I’m thinking about that right now. We might not have to do it but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine — short term, two weeks for New York, probably New Jersey and certain parts of Connecticut.”

He said that if such a move happened, it would be primarily a restriction on residents of those states traveling to other parts of the country.

“This will be an enforceable quarantine, but hopefully we won’t need it,” he said.

The move would be a dramatic escalation of the efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and comes on the back of those states essentially shuttering daily life — closing schools, businesses, leisure activities and urging residents to stay at home.

But this could be too late. Movement of people has been a problem elsewhere in the country for weeks.

Fox News: Frightening cellphone ‘heat map’ shows coronavirus’ potential spread as spring break revelers went home

Heat maps that show cellphone location data in the U.S. paint a disturbing picture of the potential spread of coronavirus as the country grapples with lockdown meaures and tries to stem the virus’ tide.

Tectonix, geospatial data visualization platform, working in partnership with location company X-Mode Social, created an alarming map that shows the impact of ignoring social distancing restrictions.

Focusing on just one group of spring break revelers on part of one beach in mid-March when they left Fort Lauderdale, Fla., it quickly becomes obvious that the thousands of people who were at the beach ended up all over the country — in the Midwest, the Northeast and other parts of the South.

That’s just one example. Contract tracing must be a nightmare.

Reuters: U.S. coronavirus cases surpass 100,000

The sum of known coronavirus U.S. cases soared well past 100,000, with more than 1,600 dead, as weary doctors and nurses coping with shortages resorted to extremes ranging from hiding scarce medical supplies to buying them on the black market.

Reuters: As virus threatens, U.S. embraces big government, for now

Whatever the motivation, in the scope of two frantic weeks, U.S. elected officials and central bankers have engineered an economic intervention unparalleled outside of wartime.

All in it would supplant perhaps 30% of gross domestic product with government spending and loans, drive the federal deficit as high as needed to make that happen, and broaden U.S. social spending in ways that just a few weeks ago Republicans and President Donald Trump were branding as “socialist.”

In the time taken to put this post together (so far) US cases jumped to 112,468 – that’s how rapidly Covid-19 is growing in the US.


BBC: Number of UK deaths rises above 1,000

The number of people to have died with the coronavirus in the UK has reached 1,019.

The latest government figures on Saturday showed there were another 260 deaths in the UK in a day, up from 759 on Friday.

There are now 17,089 confirmed cases in the UK.

The jump in deaths is the biggest day-on-day increase the UK since the outbreak began. The number of deaths is 34% higher than Friday’s figure.

NHS England Prof Stephen Powis said if the UK were to keep the number of deaths from coronavirus below 20,000, “we will have done very well”.


BBC: More than 900 deaths in a day in Italy

Italy has recorded 919 new coronavirus deaths, its highest daily figure in the outbreak so far.

It means 9,134 people have now died from the virus in the country.

Earlier World Health Organization chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a “chronic global shortage” of protective equipment was one of the “most urgent threats” to the ability to save lives.

Italy is the worst-affected in Europe. Almost everything has been closed and people told to stay at home.

Earlier on Friday, authorities warned that restrictions were likely to be extended beyond 3 April.

That seems inevitable.

Deaths now recorded on JHU&M CRC are at 10,023, cases have jumped to 92,472 (they were 80,589 this time yesterday) so the problem is far from over in Italy.


Spain’s coronavirus death toll rose by 832 in 24 hours, bringing it to 5,690. However, the number of people recovering is also increasing, with a total of 12,285 out of over 72,000 cases

French PM: ‘Fight is just beginning’

The first 15 days in April will be “even more difficult than the 15 we have just left”, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has warned.

France has recorded 1,998 deaths and has been in lockdown for 10 days, a period which has now been extended until 15 April.

“I want to speak clearly to the French,” said Mr Phil

Total confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa: 3,926

South Africa has 1,170 but it is spreading across the continent.


There are improvements in places that first has major problems,

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged, has partially reopened after more than two months in isolation

South Korea says it has more people who have recovered from the virus than infected.


Brazil’s Bolsonaro questions coronavirus deaths, says ‘sorry, some will die’

Following the advice of public health experts, the vast majority of the country’s 26 governors have banned non-essential commercial activities and public services to contain the outbreak in their states.

“I’m sorry, some people will die, they will die, that’s life,” Bolsonaro said in a television interview on Friday night. “You can’t stop a car factory because of traffic deaths.”

Bolsonaro said that in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil’s economic powerhouse, the death toll seemed “too large.” Sao Paulo has the most cases and deaths so far of coronavirus in Brazil, at 1,223 cases and 68 deaths.

“We need to look at what is happening there, this cannot be a numbers game to favor political interests,” Bolsonaro said.

Earlier on Friday, Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, a former Bolsonaro ally who many expect to be a rival in the 2022 presidential election, accused Bolsonaro of promoting “disinformation” by launching a TV ad campaign criticizing the restrictions, featuring the slogan “#BrazilCannotStop.”

The slogan is similar to a campaign in Milan before deaths in Italy soared.

Currently 3,477 cases in Brazil with 93 deaths.

 

Successful lockdown could buy enough time for a vaccine

But that sounds like a lockdown far longer than 4 weeks, although a month could be sufficient if all measures are rigidly followed and enforced.

Te Pūnaha Matatini, the centre for research excellence that Shaun Hendy leads, studies complex systems and networks. Right now, he and the centre’s other researchers are working to predict how Covid-19’s web of infection might spread – and if it’s possible to slow it down or even stop it.

Modelling shows NZ’s lockdown could buy time for a vaccine:

Modelling done by New Zealand researchers shows the lockdown measures now in place could buy the country more than a year for a vaccine or treatment to be developed.

However, the research shows that without a vaccine or cure, cases of Covid-19 will still peak well beyond hospital capacity as soon as any lockdown ends.

The modelling, released today by Te Punaha Matatini, shows measures similar to those now in place can suppress the virus for up to 400 days but infections could spike as soon as they are gone, because the population will not have developed any herd immunity.

However, any fewer restrictions would result in a peak of at least six times hospital capacity within just a few months.

The paper compares a “suppression strategy” – a sustained period of restrictions – with a “mitigation strategy”, where controls are lifted for brief periods before being put in place again as infections rise and ICU beds fill up.

In all scenarios, the lockdown period is modelled to last significantly longer than the initial four weeks that began today.

However, one of the researchers, University of Auckland Professor Shaun Hendy, told RNZ the current lockdown could be sufficient if all measures were rigidly enforced.

“Provided the contact tracing, testing, and containment strategy works then we may be able to relax in four weeks. But we need to cut cases to just a handful.”

The researchers wrote that both strategies were “fraught with uncertainty” but suppression at least had the advantage of buying New Zealand time until a vaccine or treatment became available.

“The initial modelling the team published yesterday is stark and, frankly, terrifying”:

Left unchecked, the virus would eventually infect 89 percent of New Zealand’s population and kill up to 80,000 people in a worst-case scenario.

ICU beds would reach capacity within two months and the number of patients needing intensive care would exceed 10 times that capacity by the time the virus peaked.

“Tens of thousands of people would die, our health system would collapse and people wouldn’t be able to get proper treatment. That explains why the government’s been prepared to take such drastic steps,” Hendy says. “The worst-case scenario is a really unpalatable one.”

Even the best-case scenario is hard to swallow. It assumes restrictions similar to the lockdown now in place – but suggests that unless testing, contact tracing, and isolation cut the number of cases to just a handful, the restrictions might need to remain in place for over a year.

And if the cases can’t be stamped out under those restrictions, the eventual peak will swell well beyond hospital capacity as soon as any lockdown ends, unless a vaccine or treatment is found in the interim.

“When controls are lifted after 400 days, an outbreak occurs with a similar peak size as for an uncontrolled epidemic,” Hendy and his colleagues wrote in a paper rushed out yesterday. “In other words, these strategies can delay but not prevent the epidemic.”

The good news – if there is any – is that while strict suppression measures remain in place, fatalities should remain in the low dozens and hospital capacity wouldn’t be exceeded. That would buy New Zealand time to wait for a vaccine or a successful treatment.

A lot of guesswork but also a lot of cause for concern.

How many people actually have Covid-19?

No one knows, but it’s certain that official counts will be under reporting actual cases. By how much?

“2.3% of Americans surveyed said they’ve been diagnosed with the coronavirus, a percentage that could translate to several million people”

The current official total in the US is 75,000 cases (and 1,070 deaths).

Official counts of cases of Covid-19 have been questioned around the world. The limited number of tests done and the narrow criteria for getting a test here in New Zealand naturally raises questions about the true numbers.

The only thing we can be certain of is that actual numbers are greater than official numbers, at least of cases (questions have also been raised about death counts in some countries).

Reuters: How many Americans have coronavirus? New Reuters poll might offer a hint

The official count of coronavirus infections in the United States sits at about 70,000 cases, but a chronic shortage of tests means only a fraction of the people infected are being counted. So how can we know how many Americans actually might have the disease?

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in the past several days could offer what one behavioral health expert called a “fascinating” hint of the possible numbers.

In the nationwide poll, 2.3% of Americans surveyed said they’ve been diagnosed with the coronavirus, a percentage that could translate to several million people.

Diagnosed by whom? That is likely to be various and of varying reliability.

Of course, it’s impossible to know if the answers are a result of misinformed self-diagnoses, untested professional diagnoses or test-confirmed infections. But Carnegie Mellon University professor Baruch Fischhoff, who studies risk perception and analysis, said that the poll results shouldn’t be viewed as merely a collective neurotic reaction to the pandemic.

Given the shortage of coronavirus test kits, it may well be a broadly accurate estimate of the extent of the infection across the United States, he said. “It may be the best available data,” he said.

A further 2.4% of those polled said they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

And in an illustration of the degrees of separation with the deadly virus, a further 2.6% said they knew someone who has been in close contact with a person who has tested positive.

While accuracy of these results can be questioned, there is a rise from a similar poll that at least suggests significant under counting in official numbers.

The poll, which surveyed 4,428 adults between March 18 and 24, shows a dramatic increase in those saying they have tested positive for the virus from a similar poll conducted just a few days earlier.

In the Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,115 Americans conducted March 16 and 17, about 1% said they were infected.

The second poll was just after the first, but was for a longer period and polled four times as many people.

Still, the poll results may fill some gaps in knowledge in the face of limited testing.

For example, Fischhoff said, on March 15, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine estimated there were about 100,000 infections in his state, which represents about 1% of the state’s population, despite there only being a handful of confirmed cases at the time.

If these suggested infection rates are anywhere near reality there is one positive – the death rate per infected person and per population will be a lot lower.

But the obvious negative is that the virus may be far more widely established and spread in populations, including here in New Zealand.

One thing that needs to be remembered – until an effective vaccine becomes widely available Covid-19 will continue to spread probably everywhere, and more and more people will get it.

Apart from hoping a vaccine will come out in time we have to hope we don’t get it until the demand for health services settles back and treatments improve as they learn what works best to deal with the symptoms and avoid complications.

So for now I’m happy to be in isolation, and I am prepared for this being for closer to four months than four weeks (August has been mentioned as a time we may be getting on top of things by).

Covid-19 numbers jump in last 24 hours in US

Covid-19 is surging in the United States, with New York the biggest concern but problems spread across the country.

– Fox News

That’s an alarming 24 hour jump especially of deaths going from 706 to 1,031. This suggests that in some areas the virus is overwhelming health systems.

New York is a major concern, but the CRC shows just 280 of those deaths are there.

ABC: COVID-19 infections rise in New York with peak weeks away

Hospitalizations from COVID-19 were rising faster than expected in New York as residents and leaders prepared for a peak in cases that is expected to still be weeks away.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in New York climbed to 3,800, including close to 900 in intensive care, with the peak of the outbreak weeks away, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

While the hospitalization figures are alarming, the ferocious growth has slowed over the last several days. For instance, on Sunday, hospitalizations were doubling every two days; by Tuesday they were doubling every 4.7 days, he said.

But the jump in deaths in the last 24 hours looks bad.

And it could get worse, especially if Trump tries to wind back restrictions and lockdowns before Easter. But hopefully others are making key decisions.

Fox News: Coronavirus will worsen over next month if restrictions eased, top Pentagon doctor says

Top Pentagon doctor said Wednesday the coronavirus pandemic is showing no signs of letting up over the next three weeks, according to the last military models, and any potential easing of restrictions in the coming weeks could potentially “make this worse.”

“We’re going to continue to see this — no surprise — continue to grow,” Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs told reporters.

The doctor for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff was asked by Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin if it was wise to ease restrictions by Easter.

“I don’t think there’s a great deal of value in speculating on a particular date, and what I would ask for everyone’s help with is worry about today. Because if we stop doing the right thing today because we think something’s going to happen in four weeks, we will make this worse,” Friedrichs replied.

At a Fox News virtual town hall Tuesday, President Trump said he hoped to open parts of the U.S. economy by Easter, April 12.

Trump argued he doesn’t want “to turn the country off” and see a continued economic downfall from the pandemic. He also said he worries the U.S. will see “suicides by the thousands” if coronavirus devastates the economy.

“We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don’t turn the country off,” Trump said during the interview.

Trump added: “We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We don’t call up the automobile companies and say stop making cars. We have to get back to work.”

But…

Top Defense Department officials later warned that the coronavirus outbreak will last in the U.S. for at least the next “three months” —  a stark contrast from Trump’s prognosis.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday from the Pentagon estimated that the country could grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic rocking the nation for at least 10 weeks.

“It looks like it has an eight- to 10-week period,” Esper said. “We need to plan for this to be a few months long, at least, and we are taking all precautionary measures to do that, to be in it for the long haul.”

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley took it a step further.

“You’re looking at eight to 10, maybe 12 weeks, something like that, call it three months,” Milley said. “Some of that depends on what we do as a nation to mitigate it, to flatten that curve so to speak. But we, the United States military, we’re going to do this as long as the mission takes.”

Hopefully there won’t be rises of 300 deaths per day over ten weeks, they should ease off sooner or later, but 10 weeks is 70 days, so it could get quite bad (worse than now).


Morning update:

Overnight the number of cases in the US have jumped from 68,572 to 75,233

Deaths have only edged up from 1,031 to 1,070

And Fox News has stopped showing the 24 hour increase. Maybe it was too scary. And Fox is pushing White House propaganda diverting blame to China.

 

 

 

 

We’re now in Covid-19 Level 4 household isolation

This is New Zealand’s first day in Covid-19 Level 4 ‘lockdown’.

Lockdown is a commonly used term but it is a bit misleading – we are in household isolation but able to go to the supermarket, pharmacy or doctor, and able to go for walks in the vicinity of our homes (people are expected to ‘stay local’ when leaving the home) as long as we keep at least a 2 metre distance from anyone not in our household.

For the household I’m in we will keep supermarket visits to a minimum, probably about once a week. We don’t need to go shopping for a week from now. And only one person from the household will do the shopping. Our aim is to do what we can to keep a virus free household, for our own sakes, but we have also taken in a person at higher risk that we have undertaken to protect from the virus as much as possible.

I expect that the number of cases in New Zealand will continue to climb over the next couple of weeks, due to people who have been travelling still returning home, and the congregations of people who have felt compelled to binge and panic shop prior to the lockdown, and for some reason have seen it necessary over the last few days to have their last fixes of fast food and commercial coffee.

The household isolation will be tough for some people (especially those who live alone), and some household groups. Access to essentials will be difficult for some – if you have your own transport check that neighbours are managing. Relationships may get strained, family violence may increase.

Some who are at risk through their work are taking precautions: Frontline doctors prepare for ‘what’s coming’ by sending kids away (a kid has been ‘sent away’ to us to give them better protection).

But there will be positives. Some households and families will come together and benefit from spending more time together. Many people seem to be looking at getting back to basics, making and baking food rather than relying on time saving but less healthy highly processed packets.

Many will catch up on odd jobs around the home that have suffered from a lack of time.

It is also an opportunity to discover and rediscover different ways of entertaining ourselves.

And with the Internet available to many keeping in touch with family that are isolated in other households will be easy. I’m used doing this with family living overseas anyway.

Level 4 isolation is an unprecedented imposition on us, having experienced nothing like it before in our lifetimes. But it is also an opportunity to take a pause from modern hectic lifestyles, to re-evaluate our way of living and looking at getting a better balance into our lives.

Household isolation is both a challenge and an opportunity.

This is what level 4 officially means for us:


We are at Level 4 of New Zealand’s four-level COVID-19 alert system. It is likely Level 4 measures will stay in place for a number of weeks.

Staying at home – what it means

We need your support to protect New Zealand and eradicate COVID-19. Enforcement measures may be used to ensure everyone acts together, now.

  • Everyone must now stay home, except those providing essential services.
  • Only make physical contact with those that you live with.

Food and shopping

  • Supermarkets, dairies and pharmacies will remain open.
  • When shopping, as much as possible send in only one family member at a time, practice physical distancing and hygiene rules while shopping.
  • Dairies will operate a strict ‘one-in, one-out’ policy and they won’t be allowed to sell food prepared on the premises.
  • Primary industries, including food and beverage production and processing, will still operate.
  • Freight and courier drivers will continue to transport and deliver food.
  • Grocery food deliveries – such as My Food Bag and Hello Fresh – are considered as essential and will continue as long as the food is not pre-cooked.
  • Takeaway services will be closed.
  • Liquor stores will close, unless within a licensing trust area and will operate with a strict ‘one-in, one-out’ policy. Wine and beer will continue to be sold at supermarkets.

Public spaces

  • Places where the public congregate must close.
  • 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.
  • Playgrounds are classed as an area where people congregate and so are off-limits.
  • People can exercise outdoors but must maintain a two metre distance from others.
  • People are expected to stay local when leaving the home.

Services

  • Rubbish collection will continue. Check your local authority website for recycling.
  • NZ Post will deliver mail and courier drivers will continue to make deliveries.
  • Self-service laundries can stay open, as long as 2 metre physical distancing is enforced.
  • Service stations will remain open and will be supplied.
  • Public transport, regional air travel and ferries are mostly restricted to those involved in essential services and freight.
  • Some public transport will be available for essential trips, such as to the supermarket or doctor, but options will be limited.
  • Building and construction workers will carry on in cases where they’re needed to maintain human health or safety.

Recreation or exercise

  • You can go for a walk, run, or bike ride. Exercise is good for people’s mental health.
  • If you do, it must be solitary, or with those you live with.
  • Keep a 2 metre distance.
  • However, if you are unwell, do NOT go outside.
  • DOC has closed all its campsites and huts.
  • Do not go hunting or hiking, and especially not on overnight trips.

Interaction with others

  • Staying at home is meant to reduce the transmission of the virus.
  • For this to work, you are asked to only have contact with the people you live with.
  • If you want to talk to a friend, call or video chat with them.
  • If you want to talk to a neighbour, do it over the fence.
  • Please note that children CAN travel between the homes of separated parents so as long as they live in the same town/city.
  • Feel free to drop off groceries to others e.g. a grandma, but keep a 2 metre distance for her safety.

If you are unable to find what you need, and are not sure who to contact for help, call the free government helpline on 0800 779 997 or on 0800 22 66 57 (8am–1am, 7 days a week).

Essential businesses

Only businesses that are essential may remain open during the Level 4 Alert period. If a business isn’t sure if it provides services or products which qualify as essential, it should close.

Find out more about essential businesses

Where can I get financial support?

The Government is acting to support New Zealanders through these changes. This includes:

  • a wage subsidy scheme
  • leave and self-isolation support
  • business cash flow and tax measures.

Your usual financial support, such as benefits, will continue.

Find out more about COVID-19 support , including how to apply, on the (external link)Work and Income website.

Gatherings are cancelled

All indoor and outdoor events cannot proceed.

This does not include workplaces of people undertaking essential businesses .

These requirements apply to family and social gatherings such as birthdays and weddings. These gatherings cannot go ahead.

We are asking you only spend time with those who you are in self-isolation with, and keep your distance from all others at all times.

Funerals and tangi

Funeral directors provide essential services and will continue working during Level 4. However, gathering together for funerals and tangi is not permitted while New Zealand is at Alert Level 4.

This may be a challenging time for you and your family. If you ever feel you are not coping, it is important to talk with a health professional. For support, you can call or text 1737 – free, anytime, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – to talk with a trained counsellor.

Find out more about funerals and tangi.

Education

All schools and early childhood education centres will be closed.

Schools will be providing information directly to all parents about what this means for them.

The upcoming school term break will be brought forward to start on Monday, 30 March. For the remainder of this week and through the term break, schools will establish ways to deliver teaching online and remotely.

Where possible, essential workers with children aged 0-14 need to make their own arrangements for childcare. We know this will not be possible for everyone.

Alternative arrangements are in place to allow essential workers to access childcare and continue to work.

Your employer will tell you if you qualify as an essential worker for these purposes.

How to access healthcare

Health and medical facilities are essential services and will remain open while we are at Alert Level 4.

Just because you have to stay home doesn’t mean you can’t get medical help if you need it.  This includes healthcare services, such as Healthline, GPs, cancer services, disability and aged support services.

The way these services operate might change  for example your GP might be talking to you over the phone rather than seeing you in person.

The health system will continue to provide the necessities of life for New Zealanders.

If you need to see a Doctor or other medical professional you MUST phone first.

Most consultations will happen over the phone (or by videoconference) to stop any risk of Covid-19 spreading by person to person contact.

If a face-to-face meeting is required, your doctor or other medical professional will organise this with you.

Please only call Healthline if you or someone you know feels unwell or you need medical advice, rather than general questions about COVID-19. It’s important Healthline is able to answer calls from those who need medical advice. The more people who call asking for general information, the fewer people who need medical advice can get through.

If you cannot get through and are severely unwell, for example having trouble breathing, contact emergency services (dial 111).

Further advice on how to access healthcare

Public transport and travel

You may not fly within New Zealand.

You may use a private vehicle to get food or medicine.

Private Vehicles and active travel

Using private vehicles for transport is allowed. Where possible, practice physical distancing.

Personal walks and other active travel like biking, is fine, provided you follow the two metre physical distancing requirement at all times.

International air travel

Visitors and tourists can still use international air services to travel home but commercial flights have been impacted.

Do not go to the airport unless you have a ticket. If you do not have ticket contact a travel agent or airline directly. If you are unable to secure a ticket please contact your country embassy.

For information about the Government Epidemic Notice issued and information about visa extensions, go to the Immigration New Zealand website.(external link)

Domestic air travel

While in Alert Level 4, air travel will be used only for the transport of people undertaking essential services and the transport of freight.

At risk people

Vulnerable people in particular should stay at home, and ask others to pick up supplies for them. You just need to ask them to leave these at the door, rather than come in. Drop offs at the door (rather than coming in) will protect vulnerable people from exposure to COVID-19.

You are at high-risk if you are over 70, have a compromised immune system or have underlying health conditions.

People with underlying medical conditions include a compromised immune system, liver disease, cancer, kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes mellitus, pregnant people or those on immunosuppressant medications.

You need to take more precautions to protect yourself against all infections, including COVID-19.

Source: https://covid19.govt.nz/government-actions/covid-19-alert-level/

More information for vulnerable and at risk groups

Download a poster asking people not to enter your building

Find out more about COVID-19

New Zealand Covid-19 lockdown well timed, well executed and life saving

I think that a large number of New Zealanders were relieved yesterday when the Government announced a rapid planned transition to lockdown of all but essential services and businesses in the country, initially for a 4 week period, but likely to run for months if not the rest of the year and beyond to some degree (we may switch between levels).

Many parents were very relieved that schools will be closed –

Looking at practicalities here and experiences overseas the timing is probably close to the best that could be expected. In the future looking back there may be things that could be seen to have been done better, but this is an unprecedented situation with huge decisions having to be done to save lives – a study suggests potentially up to 100,000 lives if nothing was done to limit the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. See ODT – Stark picture in worst-case scenario

Newsroom: We’re going into lockdown. Here’s why

Overseas estimates in a paper from the Imperial College London found that taking no action to fight the virus could leave 250,000 dead in the United Kingdom and 2.2 million in the United States. Taking “mitigation” measures – known cases self-isolate, as do their families and all people over 70 self-quarantine – would only halve the death toll. But “suppression” measures, which would involve reducing physical contact to the bare minimum, working from home and closing schools, can cut the toll by 90 percent.

The modelling for New Zealand is just as stark. Figures based on the Imperial College London paper and released this morning by the University of Otago show that 100,000 New Zealanders would be killed if no action was taken and 90 percent of the population was infected.

“In the worst-case scenario, the models are starkly clear: up to 90 percent of the population could end up getting infected and up to 100,000 people in New Zealand could die. Our health system would not be able to cope with demand and lots of people would not get the treatment they needed,” University of Canterbury Professor Michael Plank, who helped with the University of Otago’s modelling, told the Otago Daily Times.

In her address to the nation, Ardern said projections she had seen were equally compelling. “If community transmission takes off in New Zealand, the number of cases will double every five days. If that happens unchecked, our health system will be inundated, and tens of thousands New Zealanders will die,” she said.

So how long are we confined to our homes (and sections)? Four weeks initially, but that’s just a wait and see starter. It’s more likely to be months and quite possibly many – until a vaccine is available.

As this Newsroom analysis shows, these suppression measures would have to be in place more or less constantly until a vaccine is ready – approximately 18 months away. They could be relaxed slightly when cases dropped for a short period of time – roughly two months on lockdown, one month off – but this would have to be carefully monitored to avoid an outbreak that would overwhelm the health system and spiral out of control.

The phased lockdown plan here looks textbook.

Saturday’s announcement of a four level alert system, with an immediate move to level 2, This looked like it was just preparing the population for what was to come. On Monday we switched up to level 3, moving to alert level 4 at 11:59 pm on Wednesday.

We are fortunate that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is a very good communicator with experience dealing with crises, but this is much bigger than anything most of us have experienced in our lifetimes. Remember carless days? That seems quaint and trivial in comparison.

We are now in Covid-19 level 3, which means for most of us:

Staying at home – what it means

What you must do

We are currently at Level 3, but are preparing to move to Level 4.

We will move to COVID-19 alert level 4 at 11.59pm on Wednesday 25 March.

What that means for you is that New Zealanders who are outside of essential services must stay at home and stop all interactions with others outside of those in your households.

We know that this is a big ask. Eradicating the disease is vital to protect people’s health and ensure our health system can cope and look after New Zealanders who become sick.

You may go for a walk or exercise and enjoy nature, but keep a 2 metre distance from people at all times. You can take your children outside.

Food will always be available – production will continue, distribution will continue, supermarkets will continue. You will always have access to food.

Medicines will always be available.

Healthcare for those that need it will be available.

Your usual financial support, like benefits, will continue as normal.

Remember whatever you do must be solitary. We are asking that you only spend time with those who you are in self-isolation with, and keep your distance from all others at all times.

More details and a long list of ‘essential services’ here: Current COVID-19 alert level – but remember that this is just level 3, things will ramp up to level 4 after tomorrow.

Here at home we were already prepared for this so yesterday provided clarity and was a relief more than anything, with a large does of surreal.

Be strong, be kind and support anyone you can. If you need help hopefully you can find it close to you, many communities are rallying together to help each other.

Economic decisions as NZ readies for Alert Level 4 in COVID-19 fight

From the Ministers of Finance and Social Development:


The Government is announcing significant further support for the economy, workers and businesses as the country unites to prepare for Alert Level 4 in the fight against COVID-19.

Cabinet today agreed to remove the cap on the Government’s wage subsidy scheme, which will inject a further $4 billion into the economy over the next eleven weeks.

In addition:

  • The Government is expediting urgent work on new income support measures for all workers above and beyond the wage subsidy scheme, to be appropriate for how the economy will operate under Alert Level 4.
  • The Government, Reserve Bank and retail banks have agreed in principle to significant temporary support for mortgage holders and a business finance guarantee scheme for those impacted by COVID-19 as the country moves towards Alert Level 4. The details of this will be announced in the next few days.
  • Cabinet has agreed to freeze all rent increases and to look to extend no-cause terminations to protect people during this difficult time.

“We have a chance to beat this virus as we step up our public health response. We know this will have significant impacts on the economy, and we are doing what it takes in response to this rapidly changing situation,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

“These significant measures – along with previous moves to raise benefits and tax changes to support cashflow – are focussed on cushioning the blow for workers and businesses as we respond to this unprecedented global crisis. As we have said before, we cannot guarantee to stop all job losses, but we are doing our best to cushion the blow.”

As this crisis evolves, we are moving rapidly to support New Zealanders.

Now that many New Zealanders may not be able to go in to work for the next few weeks, our priority is ensuring they continue to receive some form of income through this period.

All employers affected by COVID-19 will now be able to apply for the existing subsidy to support the wages of all of their workers.

The changes mean the forecast cost of the wage subsidy scheme is being lifted from $5.1 billion to $9.3 billion. This assumes 50% of businesses access the 12-week scheme.

“The $9.3 billion is an estimate, not a cap or a floor. This means the support will be there to meet the demand. We are doing what it takes to put support in place for workers and businesses.

“We can do this because New Zealand is one of the best-placed economies in the world to deal with COVID-19, due to our low Government debt and strong economic fundamentals going into this global crisis,” Grant Robertson said.

MSD will do its best to get payments out the door as quickly as possible, Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni said.

“But we ask that people have patience and show a little kindness to staff there who are working as quickly as they possibly can. A payment system of this magnitude is unprecedented in New Zealand.”

Wage subsidy scheme – Cabinet decisions on 23 March:

A number of other important changes are being made to the scheme:

  • The previous $150,000 cap is being lifted, so that all employers can access the full payments to subsidise each of their workers’ salaries.
  • New businesses (eg. that are less than a year old) and high growth firms (eg. firms that have had significant increase in revenue) are also eligible. They need to demonstrate the revenue loss assessment against a similar time period, for example a 30% loss of income, attributable to COVID-19, in March 2020 compared to January 2020.
  • Self-employed people with variable monthly incomes are eligible if can demonstrate the revenue loss assessment against the previous year’s monthly average (eg. 30% loss of income attributable to COVID-19 comparing March 2020 to the average monthly income in the period March 2019 to March 2020).
  • The scheme does cover registered charities, non-governmental organisations, incorporated societies and post-settlement governance entities.

Other criteria still apply, including the 30% revenue reduction and for businesses, on their best endeavours, to maintain their named employees at 80% of their pre-COVID income. The same twelve-week period applies to the wage subsidy scheme. The new criteria will apply from midnight tonight.

New Zealand moves to COVID-19 Alert Level 3, then Level 4 in 48 hours

It has been confirmed that Alert Level Four takes effect from 11.59pm on Wednesday.

More from the Beehive/Prime Minister:


  • New Zealand moved up to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 – Restrict
  • New Zealand to move up to COVID-19 Alert Level 4 – Eliminate, in 48 hours
  • Two-staged approach to give people and businesses time to prepare

Level 3, from tomorrow

  • Non-essential businesses must close
  • All events and gatherings must be cancelled
  • Schools will only open for children of essential workers. They will close completely when we move to Level 4
  • Workplaces must implement alternative working with everyone who can to work from home
  • No discretionary domestic air travel between regions
  • Public transport for people undertaking essential services and transport of freight only

 

New Zealand has moved up to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 – Restrict, for the next 48 hours before moving into Level 4 – Eliminate, as New Zealand escalates its response to stop the virus in its tracks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

“Due to the early and strong steps we’ve taken, New Zealand is fortunate not to be as hard-hit by the virus as other countries but the trajectory is clear. We are under attack like the rest of the world and must unite to stop the worst from happening here,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“If community transmission takes off in New Zealand the number of cases will double every five days. If that happens unchecked, our health system will be inundated, and thousands of New Zealanders will die.

“Together we can stop that from happening and our plan is simple. We can stop the spread by staying home and reducing contact.

“Moving to Level 3, then 4, will place the most significant restrictions on our people in modern history but they are a necessary sacrifice to save lives.

“At Level 3, we are asking non-essential businesses to close. This includes bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries and other places where people gather together.

“Essential services will remain open, such as supermarkets, banks, GPs, pharmacies, service stations, couriers and other important frontline service providers.

“Gatherings, indoors or out, and of any shape or size, must be cancelled. This means weddings, birthday celebrations and other gatherings.

“Workplaces should have everyone working from home. Essential services will stay open at every level, but must put in place alternative ways of working including physical distancing of staff of two metres.

“Schools will be closed from tomorrow, except to children of essential workers who still need to go to work each day including doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and police. This will be temporary, and schools will close entirely from midnight Wednesday.

“The school term break will be brought forward. For the remainder of this week and through the term break schools will establish ways to deliver teaching online and remotely as quickly as they can.

“Public transport and regional air travel is restricted to those involved in essential services and freight, with domestic air travel permitted in some cases for people to leave the country and to get home to self-isolate. Private travel is allowed.

“I say to all New Zealanders: The Government will do all it can to protect you. Now I’m asking you to do everything you can to protect all of us. Kiwis – go home.

“Today, get your neighbour’s phone number, set up a community group chat, get your gear to work from home, cancel social gatherings of any size or shape, prepare to walk around the block while keeping a two-metre distance between you.

“If in doubt, don’t go out.

“These measures will be in place for four weeks at this point.

“New Zealand is fighting an unprecedented global pandemic and it will take a collective effort of every single New Zealander doing the right thing to give us our best shot at curtailing community outbreak,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Further details available at www.covid19.govt.nz


It has been confirmed that Alert Level Four takes effect from 11.59pm on Wednesday.