Is New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown lawful?

University of Otago Law Professor Andrew Geddis and Victoria University Law Professor Claudia Geiringer via the UK Constitutional Law Association website:  Is New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown lawful?

The New Zealand Government’s “go hard, go early” response to the COVID-19 pandemic has garnered widespread praise – both in New Zealand and internationally. On March 25, less than four weeks after New Zealand’s first COVID case was diagnosed, the country was put into a state of “Level 4 Lockdown”, reducing social and economic life to a bare minimum. Everyone was instructed to stay at home, except for limited “essential” purposes (in short, supermarket shopping, essential medical treatment, and brief localised exercise such as a walk or a run). All businesses were closed, except for those providing “essential” services. Physical proximity to those not in a person’s residential “bubble” was prohibited.

These measures undoubtedly have been effective, with the country now on a path to eliminate the virus. For that reason, it is perhaps not surprising that discussion of their legal status has been muted.

I’ve seen some questions raised over the last few weeks, for example:

Dr Dean Knight joins Kathryn to talk about the remarkable suit of legal powers the government has deployed during the coronavirus crisis. What are some of the rule-of-law implications?

Over the weekend – Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield used the Public Health Act to give police the power to arrest people who flout lockdown rules.

But University of Canterbury disaster law expert John Hopkins told Heather du Plessis-Allan that’s not what the act is for.

“We should welcome the fact that they introduced new laws at the weekend to make it more clear, but they’ve relied more on the Health Act, which is not really designed for the kind of lockdown that we’ve currently got.”

But he says that doesn’t mean it won’t be legally enforced.

“The courts would be very unlikely to take that given to the reality that we’re in. We’re under a state of emergency and the police powers are extensive under that legislation as well. They’re very broad.”

The second important thing that this new Health Act notice does is give these level four rules a much firmer legal footing. No one really has wanted to say it out loud for fear of undermining what needs to be a collective exercise, but it’s pretty apparent that the police actually couldn’t enforce many of the prohibitions we were being told were in place. And once that fact became common knowledge, via media stories like this one, there was a risk that general compliance with the level four lockdown requirements could suffer.

And so, this new notice is to be welcomed. It not only tells us with some greater clarity just what are “the rules”, it also provides a clear legal basis to enable the police to hold us to them. If they catch you launching a boat, or setting off for a 20km hike into the hills, or riding in a car with someone from outside of your bubble, or just loitering in the street because you are bored, they now have the lawful power to do something about it through arrest and charges.

Nathan Batts, a senior associate at Haigh Lyon, argues such restrictions on activity, along with the power to lock New Zealand into isolation and quarantine, may not be backed by legislative authority. And the police, he says, cannot enforce the will of ministers unless that will is expressed in law.

I don’t  remember seeing the National Opposition raising it but that could have been lost in the noise of Covid coverage.

A couple of legal lightweights took it to court, this was covered by media and also here Failures with habeas corpus writ against Ardern et al over lockdown ‘detention’.

The Geddis/Geiringer post addresses this:

Nevertheless, questions surrounding the legality of the lockdown received their first outing in the High Court this week, when Peters J dismissed an application by two litigants in person for habeas corpus (A v Ardern [2020] NZHC 796B v Ardern [2020] NZHC 814). Her Honour held in both cases that the conditions of the lockdown did not amount to “detention”, that the lockdown was in any event lawful, and that many of the issues raised by the applicant were not suitable for determination by way of habeas corpus.

These applications were doomed to fail. They were poorly argued, framed in large part as a personal attack against the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health. In A’s case, the applicant was already serving a sentence of home detention.

Both the judge and the lawyer representing the Crown said that a habeas corpus writ was the wrong approach and that it should have been done via a judicial review.

Nevertheless, we argue here that the formal legal status of the lockdown is far from secure. Given the significance of the threat to which the Government is responding, the New Zealand courts may well be reluctant to uphold a legal challenge. But the tenuous legal foundation of the lockdown regime represents a significant constitutional problem that needs to be addressed.

Unlike in the United Kingdom, the Government has, to date, located its lockdown powers entirely under the pre-existing legal regime relating to civil and public health emergencies.

Moving into the Level 4 Lockdown, the New Zealand Government issued an “epidemic notice” under the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006 and declared a state of national emergency under the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002. These two steps triggered a range of executive government powers. Most significantly for our purposes, they unlocked a set of coercive powers reposed in medical officers of health under s 70 of the Health Act 1956. In practice, the s 70 powers have been exercised by New Zealand’s chief public health officer, the Director-General of Health.

Although this seemed to be the primary legal basis for the lockdown restrictions at the time, official Government statements, as well as Police enforcement action, purported to impose far greater limits on civil liberties. New Zealanders were directed to stay home in their bubbles, to receive no visitors, and to venture out only for the limited purposes set out in the opening paragraph above.

In the main, the Police have preferred not to rely on a parallel coercive powers regime to be found in the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act. That regime has its own problems, which are not discussed here.

On April 3, the Director-General moved to address this discrepancy. He issued a new notice – this time under the Health Act, s 70(1)(f), which empowers a medical officer of health to require persons to be isolated or quarantined. On this basis, the Director-General ordered that all persons in New Zealand remain in their residences and only leave for the purpose of “essential personal movement” as defined in the order (“the s 70(1)(f) notice”).

Police operational guidelines confirmed that these twin Health Act notices provided the primary basis for legal enforcement of the Level 4 Lockdown restrictions.

I haven’t seen any sign of the Police abusing their powers. They seem to have been much easier on enforcement that in Australia, who have had a less restrictive lockdown.

It has been effective but has it been legal?

It is clear that the Level 4 Lockdown rules have been very successful in their intended aim of eliminating the virus from the country. Furthermore, the New Zealand public’s support for (and voluntary compliance with) their requirements has been very high. From an effectiveness and social-licence perspective, there is little to criticise in them. However, the legal status of the Level 4 Lockdown rules is far more tenuous.

A first and critical question concerns whether Cabinet has overstepped the mark in purporting to direct the country into lockdown. Throughout the crisis, decisions as to whether and when to go into lockdown, and exactly how civil liberties are to be restricted, have been presented as residing in Cabinet. But that is not so. As set out above (and as acknowledged internally within Government in a Cabinet paper that has just been released), the only relevant coercive powers lie with medical officers of health under s 70. This raises a question as to whether any of Cabinet’s statements (especially, those backed up by coercive Police action) amount to a purported suspending of the law without consent of Parliament contrary to the Bill of Rights 1688. It also raises the possibility that the Director-General might be accused of acting under dictation in the making of his various orders.

Secondly, there is a real question as to whether the s 70 notices are ultra vires. Section 70(1)(m) permits a medical officer of health, by way of public notice, to “require to be closed … all premises … of any stated kind or description”. It is by no means clear that permits the Director-General to close all premises, subject to an express exemption – as he did in the order.

The s 70(1)(f) notice is arguably even more vulnerable. An initial question is whether the Level 4 Lockdown rules actually are a form of “isolation” or “quarantine”, given the broad exceptions for essential workers and essential activities that attach. Even if they are, it is highly debatable whether the Director-General’s power to “require persons … to be isolated or quarantined” empowers an order isolating or quarantining all persons throughout the country rather than specifically identified individuals. It is a power exercisable by a single public health official, with no requirement to consult anyone else in the making of the decision.

It appears to give the Director general of health extraordinary powers.

To be clear, Peters J in A v Ardern specifically rejected the argument that the s 70(1)(f) order was ultra vires (albeit in a brief obiter paragraph). In context, that outcome was unsurprising. Nevertheless, we think the point deserved fuller consideration.

Perhaps it will get fuller consideration if taken to appeal, but the particular applicant involved could not be relied on to present cogent arguments.

A third set of questions concerns the consistency of these notices with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA). The effect of that Act is that the Health Act notices can only impose limits on a range of civil and political rights (including the freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly and movement) if those limits are “demonstrably justified”. Combating COVID-19 clearly provides an exceptionally strong justification for limiting rights, and any court would be likely to accord the Government considerable latitude. Nevertheless, it can certainly be argued that some of the limits imposed by the notices go beyond what is necessary.

…We have identified above some specific deficiencies in New Zealand’s legal regime. Underlying these specific problems lie broader questions about where power should reside to limit civil liberties on such a significant scale. The instinct of the New Zealand’s government that at least some of these powers ought to reside with Cabinet is probably the correct one. But it finds no current basis in New Zealand law.

This post is written as New Zealand transitions from Level 4 Lockdown into Level 3, at which the country will see some (limited) loosening of restrictions on civil liberties but the essence of the lockdown regime will remain in place. The timing and details of the move to Level 3 have, again, been presented as a decision of Cabinet and will, again, be effected through further section 70 notices described as “orders”. Thus, the legal difficulties attending the Level 4 Lockdown have not, in our view, been resolved.

Although these legal deficiencies expose New Zealand’s COVID-19 response to a degree of on-going legal risk, A v Ardern and B v Ardern demonstrate how reluctant New Zealand courts may be to uphold a legal challenge.

But that was a very poor challenge which seemed more personal and political than based on sound legal reasoning.

Beyond the potential for judicial challenge, however, lie deeper rule of law considerations. The Level 4 (and upcoming Level 3) lockdowns impose the most extensive restrictions on New Zealanders’ lives seen for at least seventy years; perhaps ever. No matter how “necessary” these may be, we should expect such restrictions to have a clear, certain basis in law and be imposed through a transparent and accountable process.

It is to be hoped that, when it resumes next week, New Zealand’s Parliament will take the opportunity to put the lockdown regime on a more secure legislative footing.

Parliament in New Zealand resumes today, with some limitations.

National leader Simon Bridges was a lawyer and Crown prosecutor, perhaps this is something he could get his Opposition teeth into.

I have had a browse back through National press releases and it was raised by Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell: Government must release Crown Law advice but that’s all I can see over the past month.

New Zealand to go down to Level 3 next Monday night, 27 April

Jacinda Ardern has just announced that we will be lowering our Covid alert level to level 3 next Monday 27 April at 11:59 pm (after the Anzac Day long weekend).

The Government has announced New Zealand will move out of Alert Level 4 lockdown at 11.59pm on Monday 27 April. We are still in Alert Level 4 until then.

We will hold at Alert Level 3 for two weeks, before Cabinet reviews how we are tracking and makes further decisions on 11 May.

The Government’s decision today allows many businesses to get going again, and for many people to go back to work.

Schools will be able to open soon after we move into Alert Level 3.

This will allow more business activity like construction and forestry, but it won’t allow any more social activity, which is close to bugger all.

They still want the vast majority of people working from home, and the majority of children working from home.

We will then go to Alert Level 3 for 2 weeks.

This is what was recommended by the Directory General of Health.

The virtual ban on weddings and funerals continues under level 3.


The Government has announced that New Zealand can safely move out of Alert Level 4 lockdown at 11.59pm on Monday 27 April.

The Government has announced New Zealand will move out of Alert Level 4 lockdown at 11.59pm on Monday 27 April. We are still in Alert Level 4 until then.

We will hold at Alert Level 3 for two weeks, before Cabinet reviews how we are tracking and makes further decisions on 11 May.

The Government’s decision today allows many businesses to get going again, and for many people to go back to work.

Schools will be able to open soon after we move into Alert Level 3.

At Alert Level 3 we will need to be even more vigilant. All of us will need to unite against COVID-19 by sticking to the rules.

The Golden Rules for life at Alert Level 3

  1. Stay home. If you are not at work, school, exercising or getting essentials then you must be at home, the same as at level 4.
  2. Work and learn from home if you can. We still want the vast majority of people working from home, and children and young people learning from home. At risk students and staff should also stay at home, and they will be supported to do so. Early learning centres and schools will physically be open for up to Year 10 for families that need them.
  3. Make your business covid-19 safe. Covid-19 has spread in workplaces, so the quid pro quo of being able to open is doing it in a way that doesn’t spread the virus.
  4. Stay regional. You can exercise at parks or beaches within your region, but the closer to home the better. Activities must be safe – keep 2 metres away from anybody not in your bubble. Make minimal trips.
  5. Keep your bubble as small as possible. If you need to, you can expand your bubble a small amount to bring in close family, isolated people or caregivers.
  6. Wash your hands often with soap. Then dry them. Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
  7. If you are sick, stay at home and quickly seek advice from your GP or Healthline about getting a test. There is no stigma to COVID-19. We will only be successful if everyone is willing to play their part in finding it wherever it is.
  8. If you are sick, stay at home and seek advice from your GP or Healthline about getting a test.

There is no stigma to COVID-19. We will only be successful if everyone is willing to play their part in finding it wherever it is.

This week businesses will be allowed to get ready to open, including employers re-entering premises to receive stock if necessary – but we ask that in doing so they stick to social distancing and their bubbles.

The Golden Rules for businesses at Alert Level 3

  1. If your business requires close physical contact it can’t operate.
  2. Your staff should work from home if they can.
  3. Customers cannot come onto your premises. Unless you are a supermarket, dairy, petrol station, pharmacy or permitted health service.
  4. Your business must be contactless. Your customers can pay online, over the phone or in a contactless way. Delivery or pick-up must also be contactless.
  5. Basic hygiene measures must be maintained. Physical distancing, hand washing and regularly cleaning surfaces. Workers must stay home if they are sick.
  6. If you used PPE in your business before COVID-19, then keep using it in the same way. If you didn’t use PPE in your business before COVID-19, you don’t need it now. This is advice for retailers, manufacturers and the service industries. Different advice applies to essential healthcare workers, border agencies, courts and tribunal staff, first responders and corrections staff.
  7. You must meet all other health and safety obligations.

https://covid19.govt.nz/latest-updates/new-zealand-will-move-out-of-alert-level-4-lockdown-at-11-59pm-on-monday-27-april/

Beehive: Prime Minister’s remarks on COVID-19 alert level decision – April 20

Cabinet decision on Covid-19 lockdown level today

Cabinet will be meeting from this morning to decide whether the Covid lockdown level should remain at 4 or lower to 3. The decision will be announced at 4 pm.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made it clear Government intends to be cautious in lowering the level, despite growing pressure to allow businesses who had to shut down to crank up again, albeit with limits as Level 3 is still quite restrictive. Under level 3 businesses will have to prove they are safe to operate, and most shops and all cafes, restaurants and bars will remain closed.

RNZ: Will we leave level 4 this week?

Ardern recognised the huge toll on business in particular, but said it was in everyone’s interest to stamp out the virus

She stood by the decision to put New Zealand into lockdown and said the success so far was due to having a plan, sticking to the plan and doing it together.

“We have stayed home, we have saved lives and we are breaking the chain of transmission.”

But the government would be moving “cautiously” as it considered what the next step should be, said Ardern.

“No one wants to lose the huge gains we’ve made as a country off the back of the hard work of every New Zealander.”

Cabinet would have to be satisfied it was “unlikely” the virus wasn’t spreading or going undetected, along with strong border and quarantine controls, and the ability to contact trace and test.

We will have to wait until this afternoon to find out what the Government decision is.

Warnings there isn’t enough data to make lockdown level decisions

Today the Government is going to describe in detail what a change to Level 3 and Level 2 lockdown levels will mean for us, and on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has committed to announcing a decision on whether to lower the alert level on Monday, two days before the initial 4 weeks on level 4 expires.

But experts are warning there isn’t enough data to make the decision.

RNZ: Data on contact tracing, tests, borders needed to inform lockdown level – scientists

Epidemiologist Michael Baker, who is on the Health Ministry’s Covid-19 technical advisory group, said some of the data he needed to see to be confident of going to alert level 3 may not exist yet.

“There’s a whole suite of data I would like to see, to make it really clear that we’re ready to … drop down our response level,” he said.

Prof Baker told RNZ he had been asking the ministry for weeks for certain key data about border control, contact tracing and testing but had not received it, nor had the advisory subgroup he was on with four other epidemiologists.

“I don’t think any of the epidemiologists I know have seen data covering all of these key measures.”

The public deserved to see that data before the Cabinet decision on Monday about changing the alert level, Baker said.

“Someone needs to see these data to say, yes, the system’s all performing adequately. I think that’s really vital.

“I’m hoping these data will appear very soon, because I think it is a critical input for making a decision of this magnitude.”

I would have thought that Prof. Baker would know if the data was going to be available soon or not.

Border control systems may be effective, and the data for them may exist, but it might not exist yet in the right form to be analysed properly, he said.

“It’s possible. I know getting the data into a robust form is a real challenge for our system because it has been under-resourced, progressively for many years. And this is really a massive increase in capability and expectations.”

He said clear data showing whether contact tracing was good enough to loosen restrictions should be available, but he had never seen it despite asking the ministry repeatedly for it.

It’s a bit alarming that a top Government adviser is not getting information and  data he requires to give informed advice.

Auckland University Professor Shaun Hendy is expected to submit to the government tomorrow his team’s modelling on the risks of an outbreak from easing the lockdown.

The team had about three-quarters of the data they needed, after improvements in how it was coming through in the past week, he said, but some of the contact tracing data was “really weak”.

He said the quality of data on testing was about eight or nine out of 10, but it was not easy to compile.

“Some of that information is still sent around by fax these days, so you can imagine that’s quite hard to transcribe. But we we are starting to get that information now”.

They send  data around by fax? Good grief. Not only is it ancient technology, it raises the risks if data has to be manually transcribed. I’m gobsmacked by this reliance on obsolete last century technology.

However, the team was struggling to get good data on contact tracing.

“We’re at the bottom end of the scale,” Prof Hendy said. “I understand the demands on the contact tracing operations at the moment, they’re working as fast as they can. But that’s a bit of a bit of a blind spot for us in our modelling.”

“We have some really weak idea of how much that capacity could be scaled. So let’s say we had another regional outbreak in a few weeks’ time, how much resource can be deployed to one of the regions to contain that outbreak.”

He was not confident they knew enough to make a call on going to alert level 3 region by region.

“If you’re going to relax that region earlier than the rest of the country, then there’s things you’d like to know about the way that public health is being deployed in that region that would minimise those risks,” he said.

“I think that’s a difficult call to make.

This doesn’t encourage me that information is sufficient or robust.

It also doesn’t sound  promising for a relaxation of alert level next week.

Some academics suggest rapid relaxation back to Covid Level 2 restrictions

While the Government and the Ministry of Health seem to be still taking a cautious approach to relaxing Covid-19 Level 4 restrictions on movements, business and schools and universities, some academics are suggesting a quick return to Level 2 which would allow business and schools to start to return to as near normal as is possible in the current situation.

The official line could change as the situation keeps evolving quickly, more data is gathered and a better understanding of the risks emerges.

There are risks with seeing the success in limiting spread and deaths so far as meaning restrictions were too stringent and relaxing things too quickly. Whatever changes are made to restrictions things will need to be carefully monitored.

Looking at different expert views is important in informing the decision makers.

Stuff: Lockdown rules should be relaxed, health experts say

A group of public health experts has broken ranks on the Government’s lockdown strategy, calling for a return to near-normal life in two weeks.

As the number of new coronavirus cases continue to drop, the group of academics told Stuff the Government’s lockdown plan is out of proportion with the health risks posed by the virus.

The group said that from 22 April, when the current lockdown period is due to end, New Zealand should drop to “level two” alert.

This would leave Kiwis free to return to work, most schools and universities and businesses would re-open, and leisure activities and domestic travel would resume.

Restrictions on overseas travel restrictions and gathering on more than 100 people would remain under their plan, titled “plan b”.

Jacinda Ardern has advised the Government will be announcing a revision of Level 4 and Level 3 rules and guidelines on Thursday (sounds a bit like a revised plan ‘a’ at least if not Plan B), and will announce if we will drop from Level 4 next Monday. She and the MoH will be (or at least should be) informed by a range of expert opinions, so this is the time to be discussing the options.

In response to the the group’s proposed plan, a Government spokesman said “the Prime Minister has been clear the best way to protect New Zealanders’ health and economy is to stamp out the virus.

“Modelling undertaken in NZ and the evidence we see daily in the news from overseas tells us that significant loosening of restrictions before the virus is under control, as suggested by this group, can lead to our health system being completely overrun, many people dying and doing even greater damage to our economy.

“Those countries that have followed the sort of prescription set out by this group have generally seen surges in cases and enormous pressure placed on their health systems as well as a far greater number of deaths. In contrast our strategy is seeing a reduction in cases.

The early success of the lockdown should not be used as a reason to move too quickly.”

It sounds like a cautious approach is still favoured but Ardern said they were delaying decisions as long as possible to get as much information as possible to base their decisions on. This should include consideration of a variety of opinions.

The alternative plan was developed by Auckland University’s Senior Lecturer of Epidemiology Simon Thornley.

Others to back the plan include Grant Schofield, Professor of Public Health at AUT, Gerhard Sundborn, senior lecturer of population and pacific health at Victoria University, Grant Morris, Associate Professor of Law, Victoria University,  Ananish Chaudhuri, Professor of experimental economics, University of Auckland, and Michael Jackson, postdoctoral researcher in biostatistics and biodiscovery, Victoria University.

Thornley said the evidence thus far showed eradication of the virus in New Zealand, the Government’s stated aim, was not necessary.

“Lockdown was appropriate when there was so little data…but the data is now clear, this is not the disaster we feared and prepared for.

I don’t know how he can state that with any certainty. In part at least we haven’t suffered the disaster ‘we feared and planned for’ because of the level of actions taken. If nothing was done to prevent the spread of Covid-19 it almost certainly would have been a major disaster, as Italy, Spain, Belgium, New York and other places found the hard way.

Elimination of this virus is likely not achievable and is not necessary.”

Elimination probably isn’t achievable, especially as borders open again, but we should be able to stay near to no spread for some time.

I think it’s still debatable whether virtual elimination is a goal worth targeting or not.

Thornley said the risk to most working people was low and likened it, for most people, to a seasonal influenza virus.

That’s right, and fortunate for most people, although some younger (under 70) victims have become very sick here (and for example Boris Johnson who could easily have died without the best possible hospital care).

He said the plan was developed amid concern the Government’s strategy was over-the-top and likely to “substantially harm the nation’s long term health and well being, social fabric, economy and education”.

Thornley had already said it wasn’t over the top. The debate now is what to do from here, and obviously economic and social health are important considerations.

No deaths had occurred in New Zealanders under 70 and much of the modelling related to the mortality associated with Covid-19 was overestimated, the group said in a statement.

The real threat posed by the virus was it would overwhelm the health system but New Zealand’s risk was lower than in other countries with higher population density, and our health system currently has spare capacity.

That capacity is only due to cutting back on normal health care, and that will have to ramp back up again.

“Data shows a large majority of Covid-19 fatalities have occurred in people due to their comorbidities rather than directly from the virus. Even in Italy only 12 per cent of cases were directly due to Covid.

Many illnesses become more serious due to comorbidities, that’s normal.

“If you catch Covid-19 your likelihood of dying is the same as your average likelihood of dying that year anyway. It has been described as squeezing your years mortality risk into two weeks.”

This looks a bit callous. The difference between dying some time in the next 12 months versus substantially raising the risk of dying within the next 2 weeks is going to be a big deal for nearly everyone of given the choice.

But it may be an indirect choice – what all of us do and are allowed to do can affect the risks for the most vulnerable age and comorbidity group.

The group’s plan would see the majority of schools and universities reopen, most businesses continue to operate, and allow domestic travel to resume.

Other parts of the plan would include people over 60 or with medical conditions continuing to self-isolate and receive state funded support and priority care.

There’s some merit in these suggestions but I don’t think it’s that simple. Freeing things up for people under 60 and accepting some persistence and ongoing spread of Covid-19  will be quite difficult to keep separate from those over 60, whose isolation from the virus would become even harder – and riskier – than it is now.

Thornley et al raise some important alternative considerations, but their proposals could be relaxing restrictions too quick too soon for the decision makers – and possible for people over 60 too. I wonder which way Winston Peters would want things to go?

Ardern confirms full 4 week lockdown, uncertain after that

In a media conference today Jacinda Ardern confirmed what seemed obvious, the initial lockdown period of 4 weeks is the minimum, but gave only general ideas of what might happen from there.

RNZ Live Covid-19 updates:

PM doesn’t want New Zealand to be at level 4 any longer than needed but there is no plan to lift it earlier than the four weeks it’s set out for.

All actions we have taken to date are to minimise the amount of time we are at level four, she says.

We are determined to make sure that we stamp out Covid-19. That means broader testing and in particular surveillance testing, more and faster contact tracing and strong enforcement of the lockdown rules and border controls.

PM says country be at level 4 for four weeks because it takes time for symptoms to be seen and some people may have passed on Covid-19 before the lockdown and those symptoms will only just be starting to be seen now.

Because of the time lag in the virus “rearing its head” the PM says four weeks is necessary at level four lockdown.

PM says we need to be absolutely sure we’re not missing ‘silent outbreaks’ and this is why surveillance testing is important.

Four weeks of lockdown is so important – “we need to stay the course”.

Down the track some regions may experience outbreak while others aren’t. That means New Zealand needs to have the flexibility to move between the alert levels in different parts of the country once lockdown lifts.

On quarantines:

On whether there should be mandatory quarantine of all overseas New Zealanders returning, the PM says she’s already asked for this work to be done.

She says the country will only continue to see border controls ramp up but the government needs to make sure whatever is done can be sustained for a long time.

PM says, as soon as we’re ready you’ll hear me say more about it.

 

Ardern interview – lockdown, eradication, data, duration, business on hold

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was interviewed by Hillary Barry for Seven Sharp yesterday.

 

On what the lockdown means – we must stay in our homes, it “really relies on all of us” because “because this is what’s going to determine…actually whether we get out of alert level four as quickly as possible”.

On David Clark’s bike ride, avoided with “I was just going to give you the charity of my silence”, and then a lecture on what we the ordinary people must do to comply with Ardern’s requests not to do exactly what Clark did. Poorly handled by Ardern.

Contain or eradicate the virus? “Every time a case comes up we all pile in, we stamp it out, we contact trace, we self-isolate. We keep going through that process for as long as we need to.”

On testing and data: “My goal is that we’re in a position where we have enough testing we feel real confident about the decisions across New Zealand

On allowing online business: “We need to stop people congregating or being in shared spaces as much as possible, and that includes people being in warehouses and facilities where they’re packing orders. And so it’s about both sides.” A one-sided no.

Extending the 4 week lockdown? “…my hope is as we get closer to that four weeks we’ll have a really good idea of what’s going to happen next, and it might be that some regions come out, might be that some regions need to stay in a little bit longer”

“All the data we’re sharing with you I’m getting as well, so you’ll see what’s happening with the numbers and what’s happening in our regions, how we’re looking in order to come out of Level 4. So we’ll keep sharing that and you’ll see us in real time starting to process that data, tell you what it’s looking like and what it will mean for us being in level 4.”

Note she says “All the data we’re sharing with you I’m getting as well”, not ‘all the data I’m getting I’m sharing with you’.

So we are left to guess by the number of cases per region, I suppose whether they stop increasing, on the likelihood our regions will have the restrictions relaxed or not after 4 weeks.

It seems like a well prepared interview, I would guess with questions provided in advance.

It doesn’t really tell us anything much we didn’t already know or could deduce.

 

 

Hillary Barry: This week we’ve been reporting that some people are still confused about what the lockdown means. Others are clearly ignoring the messages. What do you want to say to New Zealanders as we head into our second weekend?

Jacinda Ardern: Just how important it is that we all stay at home. And I just can’t make that clear or express it more firmly because this is what’s going to determine whether a) whether we are successful in breaking the train of transmission, b)  whether we save lives, and c) actually whether we get out of alert level four as quickly as possible. So it really relies on all of us.

Hillary Barry: I mean, your own Health Minister went out mountain biking, Your thoughts on that?

Jacinda Ardern: Oh I’ve shared my thoughts quite directly as you can imagine Hillary.

Hillary Barry: (hard to hear) to share with us what you said to him?

Jacinda Ardern: I was, as I said this morning, I was just going to give you the charity of my silence, but you can be assured I did not give him the charity of my silence.

What we need people to do is stay local and also stay away from risk. And that’s really important because ultimately we don’t want our emergency services or other people having to come to your rescue., and that’s why that’s so important right now.

But I do accept people will want to go for walks around their home, or around their street just to get a little fresh air.

We do need to make this as bearable as possible, but we also need to limit your contact and you risks.

Hillary Barry: It is a bit of a confusing time for people, and we’ve heard a lot in the early stages of this crisis about flattening the curve. Just to be clear, is New Zealand trying to contain this virus, or trying to eradicate it?

Jacinda Ardern: Yes so right now we’re in a period where we’re trying to get back control. You know at the early stages there we ran the risk of that number of cases really starting to grow quite rapidly, and that’s why we went through those stages or alert levels really quickly.

Now that we’re at alert level 4 what we’re trying to do is get that control back, manage the transmission, but essentially get rid of it.

Now that doesn’t mean that we’ll have a situation that because Covid will be with us for a number of months, where if we have  a case in the future that’s failure,  it just means as soon as that happens we again have to stamp it out.

Every time a case comes up we all pile in, we stamp it out, we contact trace, we self-isolate. We keep going through that process for as long as we need to.

That doesn’t mean being in alert level 4 for months and months, but it means getting control back, and getting into a position  where we can start working very hard on eradicating it every time it comes up.

Hillary Barry: Leading scientists say we need more testing and more data. What do you say to that, particularly about the data?

Jacinda Ardern: I agree with that. We need as much information as we can. It means we can make the best decisions we can about coming out of alert level 4 and doing it with confidence.

And so we had today the most tests that we’ve had in any one single day, roughly three and a half thousand tests, but we’re building up our capacity to have even more. My goal is that we’re in a position where we have enough testing we feel real confident about the decisions across New Zealand, but right now actually compared to others our testing is very good.

Hillary Barry: And are you happy with that data that you’re getting out of that?

Jacinda Ardern: Again, I want to keep growing  it. Today was a good day in terms of those numbers, but the longer we have that, then the better data we have, then the better decisions we make.

Hillary Barry: Now there’s growing concern about the impact on out economy of course. Business people appealing to be allowed to trade online. Now given that you can still get goods offshore, could you change the rules around that to help business out?

Jacinda Ardern: I utterly understand why people will be raising that issue, but the thing we need to think about is not just the person making the purchase, but the businesses that are having to  then come together in  order to process those orders. We need to stop people congregating or being in shared spaces as much as possible, and that includes people being in warehouses and facilities where they’re packing orders. And so it’s about both sides.

The best thing that we can do for our economy is try and make sure that the public health impacts of Covid are as small as possible, by helping or focusing on public health. That means that we can get ourselves in a position where we’re supporting our economy by not being in a prolonged lockdown.

So if you look at countries around the world who have probably put economy first, they’re now in these prolonged lockdowns, which is not only bad for our health because people die, but also in the long run bad for jobs.

Hillary Barry: Speaking of a prolonged lockdown, what are the chances, not that we’re this far into it,  that you will need to extend the lockdown?

Jacinda Ardern: Of course we were very open from the outset that four weeks was what we felt was needed to (?) the chains of transmission in order to make a really good judgement about what next for New Zealand.

At the moment it’s actually a bit too early to say because we haven’t gone through the full two week period yet, we haven’t seen the full benefits of the lockdown yet.

But my hope is as we get closer to that four weeks we’ll have a really good idea of what’s going to happen next, and it might be that some regions come out, might be that some regions need to stay in a little bit longer, but my goal is to have New Zealand in Level 4 for as little time as possible.

Hillary Barry: So are you saying that you will probably wait until that four week period is over before making a decision whether to extend it or not?

Jacinda Ardern: New Zealanders will really get a sense at the same time I do, because all the data we’re sharing with you I’m getting as well, so you’ll see what’s happening with the numbers and what’s happening in our regions, how we’re looking in order to come out of Level 4. So we’ll keep sharing that and you’ll see us in real time starting to process that data, tell you what it’s looking like and what it will mean for us being in level 4.

The interview finished with family stuff that isn’t important to the country.

No hunting and fishing under Level 4 restrictions

A NZ First tweet yesterday suggested that “hunt the roar” (deer hunting) was an allowed activity during the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown, but that has been ruled out.

The tweet, now deleted, had graphics depicting hunting and said:

“Having to self-isolate doesn’t necessarily mean being locked indoors. You may go for a walk or exercise or hunt the roar, but keep a 2 metre distance from people at all times.”

If allowed that would have given many people an excuse to roam the countryside as long as they had firearms, while everyone else was confined to home or nearby.

Covid-19 Alert Level 4 states:

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.

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.

The day before the NZ First tweet NZ Fish & Game posted under Covid-19 Information:

5.10pm 24 March

The Government’s clear intention at this stage is that fishing and hunting are prohibited during the Alert Level 4 lockdown period. If and when we receive other advice from the Government we will change our position.

Therefore, Fish & Game New Zealand are urging all anglers and hunters to do the right thing and stay at home while New Zealand is at COVID-19 Alert Level 4.

“Unfortunately, being at Level 4 means that anglers and hunters aren’t able to do the pursuits that they love,” Fish & Game New Zealand Chief Executive Martin Taylor says.

“The advice we have is that at Alert Level 4 anglers and hunters should not undertake activities that expose them and others to higher levels of risk. We are also advised that DOC huts and campsites are closed as they do not meet minimum separation requirements.”

New Zealand Search and Rescue (NZSAR) is asking people to stick to simple outdoor exercise and avoid areas where they could get lost or require search and rescue. NZSAR want to ensure that emergency services are available to help those in the greatest need. Fishing and hunting, even close to home, inherently carry a degree of risk and it is important for anglers and hunters not to further burden our emergency services and healthcare system. Staying in and around home is simply the right thing to do.

“It is heart-breaking to not be able to spend time in the outdoors, especially as for many of us this is our main way to destress, but we all have our part to play to beat COVID-19,” Mr Taylor says.

“The point of the next four weeks is to kill the virus in New Zealand so that life goes back to normal as quickly as possible. Let’s stay home for four weeks then we can get outdoors and back into angling and hunting.”

The Level 4 lockdown period is scheduled to end prior to the start of the game bird season, and if we are all responsible during the next four weeks the game bird season is on.

We ask for your patience while we piece together the complexities of what we are facing. In particular, we will have further advice on pegging day as soon as possible.

It is our intention to give anglers and hunters ongoing updates on our facebook page and website.

Please keep up-to-date with all the most recent Government guidance around COVID-19 here

If hunters and fishers were allowed to roam where ever they liked, which would often have involved travel first, it would have encouraged others to push limits and it could easily have become an unmanageable farce.

It would also have potentially been dangerous, as if they were to comply with requirements to keep isolation within households many hunters and fishers would have had to hunt and fish alone.

Last night NZ First changed their Facebook profile picture to:

and a Winston Peters video reinforces this message:

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.