Lockdown could be maintained ‘for a long while’

New Zealand has just started the second week of a four week lockdown, (which means isolation at home with exceptions for essential activities). But this always looked like an initial period, and there are more signs that it could extend for some time longer in some parts of the country at least as it has emerged that the plan here is to try to ‘stamp out’ the Covid-19 virus.

That could see lockdown maintained “for a long while”.

Stuff: Government says it has no plan B if lockdown fails to stamp out Covid-19

Health Director General Ashley Bloomfield told reporters on Thursday that the Government would keep the country or parts of it in lockdown for as long as possible to “stamp out” Covid-19.

“One of our key drivers on this has been to protect our healthcare system, protect our population – keep them well – and to not see the number of deaths modelling suggested would happen. We didn’t see that as tenable.”

Some  non-health people see the initial impact on the economy as untenable (with some justification), let alone the impact on businesses and jobs if there’s an extended lockdown.

Asked again if there was any backup plan, Bloomfield said the Government was “in the plan” and that could see lockdown maintained for a long while.

“Well we are in the plan. The plan is the plan, isn’t it. That’s why we’ve got alert level 4. If we need to we will keep the measures in place until we see that dropoff in cases. We will then maintain that long-term stamp-it-out phase.”

He referred back to the pandemic influenza plan which has acted as a blueprint for government action, but said the Government had essentially decided to stay away from the phase of that plan where the disease was “managed”.

“We decided we didn’t want to move to manage it. We wanted to stay in an extended keep it out, stamp it out phase. And the stamp it out we are trying to do at the moment is stamp it out altogether.”

But can we afford (economically and socially) to wait an extended time to see if our approach works?

University of Otago epidemiologist Nick Wilson, who has worked on the models for the Government, said on Tuesday that the Government needed clarity around a Plan A and a Plan B if it failed.

This might involve all older people staying in lockdown but other age groups restarting something closer to normal life.

Bloomfield said the Government was currently working out what exactly the conditions would need to be for either the whole country or parts of it to exit the level 4 lockdown.

He expected this work would be completed in the next few days.

So they don’t know yet. They have had to make big decisions based on limited information in a very short space of time, but we should be given a reasonable idea of what to expect over the next few months and for the rest of the year.

ODT: South may face Level 4 lockdown for longer

The Southern District Health Board amassed 10 new cases yesterday, and director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield advised the amount of cases due to community transmission was higher than previously stated.

They don’t even knoiw the amount of community transmission due to fairly narrow criteria for testing up until now.

Further, he said the Government was just now looking at how the spread of the coronavirus might indicate when lockdown restrictions could be eased.

“The goal is to get the number of cases right down again, and as soon as we can.

“We want to be able to release, or step down from, Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3.

“It may well be that we are not able to do that in every part of the country at the same time, as one possible scenario,” Dr Bloomfield said.

The Southern district (Otago and Southland) has the highest number of cases in total and by far the highest number per population so we could be well down the de-lockdown list. Personally this doesn’t worry me, I can keep working from home if the rest of the country cranks up and there’s work to do. But the situation is a lot trickier for many people.

Australia has not taken as drastic action as here, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned of ‘the long haul’: Scott Morrison scraps childcare fees while warning Australia to brace for six months of upheaval

Morrison declined to be specific when asked on Thursday when Australia’s international border might reopen or other strict restrictions on public gatherings might be lifted. But he took the opportunity to urge Australia to “stay together” and brace for the long haul, ahead of another meeting of the national cabinet on Friday.

“There is a new normal here in Australia and it’s one that we now need to get used to and settle into for that haul over the next six months,” Morrison said. “That is something that will go against the grain for so many, but we adapt. We can change the way we live, but it doesn’t change who we are.”

Morrison said he is the only leader in the world talking about a much longer timeframe.

I’ve just heard Morrison on RNZ in response to questions about opening borders to the US, UK and Europe: “It is likely to be at least six months, It could be longer.”

It’s time for Jacinda Ardern to be giving us in New Zealand a clear indication of her expectations of timeframes in lockdown and reduced to Level 3. If it’s doing to be ‘a long while’ we should know about it.

 

Essential businesses review, Easter trading to be considered

When Cabinet meets today they will review classifications of what businesses are classified as ‘essential’ so can keep trading. There will always be difficulties drawing a line between essential and non-essential, and there will be inevitable anomalies and exceptions.

With Easter less than two weeks way trading that is usually not allowed on Good Friday and Easter Sunday has been questioned.

David Farrar (may be fomenting mischief) at Kiwiblog: Govt should use its powers to temporarily amend the Shop Trading Hours Act

Under the current law every supermarket in New Zealand has to close on Friday 10 April and Sunday 12 April.

As the only significant source of food open in New Zealand, it would be moronic to force them to close. It would also creates even larger queues for supermarkets on the days after. We already have reports of 400 metre long queues to get into supermarkets.

The Government should use it powers to temporarily amend the Shop Trading Hours Act to allow supermarkets to open on 10 and 12 April, should they wish to. They could even stick in a provision stating no one can be forced to work those days.

He has a point. But can supermarkets be forced to open? Workers are under considerable stress and could benefit from a break.

New World has already announced pausing home deliveries:

Some New World stores are adjusting their opening and closing times to allow our team the time to stock the store safely and enables us to provide any additional support they require.

Our staff are working round the clock to make sure customers’ needs are met and we are very conscious of looking after them too. Feeding and caring for our communities is our greatest priority. Thank you for your understanding and support.

Easter & public holiday opening hours for online shopping. Our online shopping service will not be available on public holidays. Therefore, there will be no deliveries or click and collect available on the following days:

Easter:

Friday 10th April- Good Friday
Sunday 12th April- Easter Sunday
Monday 13th April- Easter Monday

Also Foodstuffs is giving a 10 percent pay bonus to its front-line, distribution and transport employees working throughout the Covid-19 lockdown (RNZ Live).

But PM says supermarkets may open over Easter

The Easter Trading Laws could be amended to let supermarkets stay open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, days where they are normally forced to stay closed.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Susie Ferguson it depends on whether supermarkets need the time shut to restock shelves, but the government will be talking to them directly about the issue.

She expects to have more to share on the issue within the next 48 hours.

Ardern:

“We are having a direct conversation (with supermarkets) right now over whether or not Easter for them is essential for restocking purposes, and I’m hoping to get more certainty over that issue over the next 24-28 hours”.

“…for me I want a pragmatic response. If the supermarkets tell us ‘we actually need that time to restock shelves that we haven’t been able to catch up on’, that’s in the best interests of New Zealanders as well”.

“It’s such a rare thing now, the visit to the supermarket, it’s quite time consuming, they’re having to wait to make sure there aren’t too many people in the shop. I’d rather make sure they that when they go, the things they’re looking for are there.

“And if Easter trading closures enable supermarkets to restock, then that would be helpful to everyone”.

It would also be helpful for supermarket workers to have a break. As other food sources are closed supermarkets will be busier than ever, some staff will have opted out, or in places like Dunedin students who often work in supermarkets will have returned home.

I was talking to a supermarket worker last night who said she would prefer not to have to work due to risks and isolating her from family but feels she needs to. She is starting an hour earlier than normal at 5 am to cope with the workload.

People should be able to manage with supermarkets being closed for a day or two. We haven’t shopped since the lockdown started and aim to keep shopping trips down to one a week – but someone else I know has already been to the supermarket twice since the lockdown started.


‘Additional decisions and exemptions’ were updated yesterday (see Essential businesses)

  • All supermarkets and dairies are considered essential services. A supermarket’s primary focus is selling food product, and is a retail store operating on a self-service basis, selling groceries, fresh produce, meat, bakery and dairy products, and sometimes an assortment of non-food goods. Dairies must operate a one-in-one-out rule, and cannot sell cooked food.
  • Food delivery other than cooked prepared meals such as takeaways is allowed (eg supermarket home delivery, food parcels from charitable organisations, subscription food boxes, or any other whole-food delivery service). Meals-on-Wheels and alternative meals on wheels services that have been referred from a DHB, ACC or MSD may continue to deliver prepared food. Ordering, payment and delivery must be contactless and the business must operate safely within the general health guidelines such as physical separation and hygiene.
  • Food banks are considered an essential social service. Food banks must operate a one-in-one-out rule, and cannot sell or provide cooked food.
  • Multi-product retailers that supply food and beverage as an ancillary service are not an essential service (eg The Warehouse).
  • Locksmiths can undertake essential work on emergency call-outs and essential activity to maintain the security of premises/personal properties.
  • Turf maintenance is not considered an essential service and should not be undertaken at this time.
  • Pet care services are not considered to be essential, except where necessary to maintain existing boarding of animals in pet care, or for long-term care when no other alternatives are available.
  • Vehicle washing services must only be undertaken when supporting essential services to ensure they are complying with the necessary health and safety requirements eg washing off contaminated or biohazard materials.
  • Road safety equipment for road construction should only be used only where maintenance is essential.
  • Farmers markets are not considered to be an essential service, as alternatives are available.
  • Liquor stores must close to the public unless they are in Licensing Trust Areas and the liquor store is operated by the Licensing Trust in that area. Open premises in Licensing Trust Areas can operate with a one-in-one-out rule.
  • Pest management may be undertaken only where required for human health and safety, and it is essential during the Alert Level 4 period. However, operators must ensure people have somewhere safe to go while the process is underway, in particular where a property is being vacated.
  • Campgrounds may continue to operate under very strict protocols and management of access. Eg contact to be maintained only with people staying in the same abode/room; common social and recreation areas to be closed; split shift access to common areas.
  • Backpacker accommodation providers may continue to operate under very strict protocols and management of access conditions. Eg contact to be maintained only with people staying in the same room; common social and recreation areas to be closed; split shift access to common areas.
  • Butchers, bakeries and similar small-scale food retailers are considered non-essential, as similar products are readily available in supermarkets.
  • Furniture moving, in general, is not considered to be essential. However, as the deadline for domestic travel has been extended until midnight Friday 27 March, anyone in the process of moving house will need to complete their move before the end of Friday. Similarly, all furniture deliveries currently in transit would need to be also be delivered by the end of Friday.
  • Natural health services are considered non-essential.
  • Security is considered an essential service, even if security services are being provided in relation to a premise for a non-essential service.
  • Self-storage facilities can operate only to facilitate access for essentials. New sales or expiries of units are considered non-essential. Access to existing lockers is permitted for essential items or services only, eg fridges.
  • Critical support services to ensure businesses and workers can continue working from home are considered to be essential. This includes functions such as IT and Payroll.
  • Rental cars may be accessed in some circumstances. Ministry of Transport has put out documentation on essential transport logistics and services.
    Please refer to the Ministry of Transport website(external link)
  • Every restaurant, café and bar must close all aspects of their operation.
  • Self-service laundries can stay open, with 2-metre physical distancing to be enforced.
  • Bunnings, Placemakers, Mitre 10 and other retailers essential to the supply chain for building and construction can stay open to trade customers for essential purposes only.
  • The Tiwai Point smelter is exempt from closure.
  • NZ Steel is to shut down in a way that allows for production to recommence easily.
  • Pulp and paper plants are to shut down their non-essential elements in a way that allows for production to recommence easily, and while maintaining essential production.
  • Methanex can remain in production, but at a scale consistent with the stability of gas supply.

For the avoidance of doubt, sectors and occupations specified in the following are also included in this list of essential services:

  • Schedule 1 of the Civil Defence and Emergency Management CDEM Act 2002 Schedule 1 of lifeline utilities AND
  • Employment Relations Act 2000 Schedule 1 of essential services.

One contentious business type is butcheries. Note “Butchers, bakeries and similar small-scale food retailers are considered non-essential, as similar products are readily available in supermarkets.”

Stock of meat held in chillers is being considered.

Halal butchers have appealed this, saying they are essential for Muslims. If Halal meat isn’t readily available in nearby supermarkets they have a point – if Muslims stop eating meat because they can’t get what they want that could affect their nutrition and health. No one should be forced to consume food that breaches their religious beliefs (not just Muslims).

But of course if Halal butchers are granted an exemption other butchers will feel hard done by (with some justification). And people who like to gripe about Muslims will see it as an excuse to rant some more.

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.

Dunedin virtually deserted

8-8:30 am on a normal working Friday in Dunedin and the roads are usually close to their busiest. Not under Covid-19 lockdown.

The Octagon has a few parked cars, no sign of people.:

The corner of State Highway 1 (heading south) and Andersons Bay Rod is one of the busiest intersections (usually):

Dunedin traffic cam.

That’s all heading into the city on a change of lights from the southern motorway.

Lookout Point showing the motorway heading into the city at a major intersection:

Dunedin traffic cam.

Stuart Street, one of the main feeder routes into the CBD from the hill suburbs:

Highgate bridge cam.

So the lockdown seems to be working fairly well.

Webcams here: https://www.dunedin.govt.nz/dunedin-city/webcams

And the Leith Saddle on the Northern Motorway:

https://www.metservice.com/traffic-camera/leith-saddle

 

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

What can we do in lockdown? It’s up to us.

We are heading for lockdown, confined to our homes unless going out for groceries or medical assistance) with some access to outdoors if we keep our distance from other people.

Otherwise, what can we do for weeks if not months of confinement?

If you’re reading this you have access to the Internet. This will be the primary means of communication for many of us.  I will be keeping in touch with overseas family I have been cut off from already, and local family that will soon be off limits in person.

We will still have TV, radio, newspapers probably (the ODT was very thin yesterday presumably as advertising dries up).

We can still interact with our neighbours as long as we keep our distance.

I will keep posting here, perhaps even more as I will have more time at home.

We are being forced into a different way of life for a while. perhaps wee can use this time to look at better ways of doing things online.

We can be more supportive, more positive, and we can find ways of being more interesting. If anyone wants to do a guest post then go for it. Or if you have ideas on what things I can cover here I’m open to suggestions.

We are in a very challenging time. It could be tough in ways and at times, but in adversity we can rise to the challenge.

What we do with the unprecedented situation we’re in is up to us.

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.

Community spread must already be occurring, further action implored

Nearly all confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand have been linked to international travel, and there has been no confirmation of contracting the virus via community transmission – but this may be happening undetected.

Epidemiologist Doctor David Skegg – NZ’s Covid response: We need to be more open

The New Zealand Government should be congratulated on many aspects of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is an urgent need for more openness about the current situation and the options for controlling further spread of this disease.

Community transmission

For some weeks I have been concerned by repeated statements that the probability of community transmission of the coronavirus in this country is low. Not nearly enough testing has been carried out so far. Since testing has been heavily skewed towards people who have been overseas recently, it is hardly surprising that most of the cases detected had links to overseas travel.

All the epidemiologists I talk with expect that community transmission is already occurring, at least in some places. Why should the virus behave differently in New Zealand than elsewhere?

Authorities have argued that decisions about testing are left to the expert judgement of clinicians. Yet some clinicians have complained about difficulty in arranging tests.

There have reports that even people with possible Covid-19 symptoms are not being tested because they don’t have links to anyone who has travelled internationally.

I know a nurse who works in an aged care hospital who was off  work with symptoms last and tried to have a test, but was told she didn’t need one as she had no travel links.

US Senator Rand Paul tests positive for Covid-19

Republican US Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has tested positive for coronavirus…Paul has no symptoms and was tested out of “abundance of caution” given his recent travels

How many people with no symptoms are carrying and possible spreading the virus?

If this is common practice then community transmission won’t be detected because they are excluding that from testing.

People are surprised when I tell them that, allowing for population size, the epidemic of COVID-19 in New Zealand appears to be running only about 8 days behind that in the United Kingdom – a country that had no border controls.

The UK currently has 5,071 confirmed cases and 233 deaths.

We seem to be tracking a little behind Australia on spread, and they are making major moves this week, with NSW, Victoria and Queensland moving into lockdown on Tuesday.

ABC: NSW, Victoria and ACT jump the gun on PM’s indoor venue crackdown with early state-wide shutdowns

The Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and ACT beat the Prime Minister in flagging a host of closures across their states on Sunday, hours before the Federal Government’s crackdown on indoor venues.

In their announcements earlier on Sunday, the three states said schools would remain open on Monday, but Victoria’s school holidays would be brought forward to start on Tuesday.

Queensland set to follow NSW and Victoria in shutting down non-essential services.

Western Australia and South Australia have joined Tasmania and the Northern Territory in requiring visitors to isolate for 14 days upon arrival, effectively closing the borders.

ABC: Crackdown on social distancing sees pubs, indoor sporting and religious venues to close

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says parents can keep their children in school, but licenced clubs, pubs, cinemas, casinos, nightclubs and places of worship will close from midday Monday.
The following facilities will be restricted from opening from midday local time 23 March 2020:
  • Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies).

Australia currently has 1,353 cases and 7 reported deaths.

Things are escalating in Auckland – Seven Auckland schools shut

Students of seven Auckland schools will be staying home today due to Covid-19 cases and precautions.

Glendowie College is closed until Thursday after a student tested positive for Covid-19.

Marist College for girls in Mt Albert, where a teacher has the virus, is closed, as is the next door Marist Primary as a precaution. It’s expected to reopen Thursday.

Mount Roskill Grammar School where a parent has tested positive for Covid-19 is also closed, however, this is a scheduled closure. The parent, who returned from overseas March 12, attended a school event the same evening.

A Randwick Park Intermediate School student is a “probable case” and the school will be shut for 72 hours.

Tests on a Pukekohe High School student and a Pukekohe Intermediate School students were both negative however, the schools will remain closed until Tuesday. The decision was made as a precaution to avoid difficulty communicating to parents over the weekend if tests were positive.

Another school in Auckland alerted parents Sunday evening a teacher, who is a close contact to a confirmed case, is now in precautionary self-isolation. The teacher does not have symptoms and the school is remaining open.

In a letter from the Ministry of Education parents were told the risk was low.

“The latest evidence shows that, unlike influenza, there is a very low risk that a person is able to transmit the virus before they have symptoms.”

At present the Government’s stance is that shutting schools down isn’t necessary as there is not widespread community transmission here.

There’s concern preemptively shutting schools could mean grandparents. who are vulnerable due to their age, would end up caring for children.

That’s exactly what I’m doing. A grandson is ‘immunne-compromised’ – he has type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease. We are taking him in and setting up in virtual self-isolation. I can do this because I can work from home. And we will talk to his high school about keeping him at home.

We see this as prudent because his other family contacts pose a greater risk – his father is still working which involves personal contact, he has siblings at two other schools, and his other grandparents work in exposed jobs – in a supermarket and as a taxi driver that does airport work.

The official stance on level 2 is that as a country we are not yet in lockdown – but the sooner that happens the more we can reduce spread of the virus.

The petition calling for moving immediately to Level 4 and a mandatory social lockdown has jumped to 55,000 signatures.

Stuff: Major benefits and dire consequences to lockdowns, expert says

The Ministry of Health says it will only encourage lockdowns in New Zealand if the local coronavirus situation changes dramatically.

But a public health expert believes a lockdown is critical sooner rather than later to fight the pandemic and save New Zealand from the catastrophic path of some other countries.

For now, appeals for people to self-isolate and follow social distancing remain pivotal to Government coronavirus strategy. But outrage is brewing about people who flout self-isolation guidelines and can’t seem to take social distancing advice.

As shutdowns loom in Australia, a comprehensive local lockdown now would offer New Zealand a “clear path forward”, Professor Michael Baker told Stuff on Sunday.

“All I can do is convey the epidemiological rationale for doing it very rapidly,” said Baker, from the University of Otago’s Department of Public Health.

“The alternatives are pretty dire.”

Enforcing limits in social movement could essentially suffocate the virus’ ability to spread, Baker said.

Baker expected Government leaders were already preparing for lockdowns.

He believed it was a matter of timing and taking into account logistical challenges, but said the sooner lockdowns came, the better.

Baker said he’d “be delighted” if a lockdown was announced immediately.

I want to avoid direand am concerned that Covid-19 may already spreading in communities.

I’m going to effectively lock down now – it will be enforced soon anyway, and protecting lives must be a priority. We all have this choice now.


Stuff: Close schools immediately, Teaching Council pleads

The Teaching Council has called for all schools and daycare centres to shut down immediately.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday, Teaching Council chief executive Lesley Hoskin made the call which she said was on behalf of 130,000 teachers.

The closure should be immediate, she said.

“As the voice of teachers, the council, on behalf of all teachers, implores you to act now and to move to Alert Level-4, closing early childhood centres and schools.

 

Australia begins shut down

Things are moving towards lockdowns in Australia, with Victoria and NSW the first states to move.

Victoria: State to progressively shut down non-essential activity over next 48 hours

Victoria will be shut down over the next 48 hours, with only essential services to remain open.

All schools will be shut from Tuesday, as 67 new coronavirus cases were confirmed overnight.

This is the largest one-day increase yet, and brings the state’s tally to 296 cases, at least three of which were acquired through community transmission.

When questioned about suggestions Victoria was pushing for a total lockdown including all non-essential businesses next Tuesday, the Prime Minister said any further restrictions would be discussed this afternoon at a meeting of a medical expert panel with all states participating.

Berejiklian to push for a full lockdown of non essential services in NSW

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she will push for a full lockdown of non-essential services over the next 48 hours with schools expected to close from Tuesday.

“Tonight I will be informing the national cabinet that NSW will proceed to a more comprehensive shutdown of non-essential services. This will take place over the next 48 hours,” she said.

“Supermarkets, petrol stations, pharmacies, convenience stores, freight and logistics, and home delivery will be among the many services that will remain open.

A decision on the closure of NSW schools needs to go to state cabinet, which will be brought forward to tomorrow morning. Ms Berejikllian will then make an announcement.

South Australia to close borders in response to coronavirus pandemic

Declaring a “major emergency”, South Australian authorities have announced tough new measures which will see the state close its borders to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Premier Steven Marshall said the measures, which would be in place from 4pm on Tuesday, were being taken in the “interest of … public health”.

The State Government will establish 12 border crossings where travellers will be required to sign a declaration about their health and ability to undertake mandatory self-isolation for two weeks.

Northern Territory is also closing their border on Tuesday.

Meanwhile in New Zealand: Doctor group – raise threat level now or risk becoming like Italy

A group of doctors and other health workers say the Government has just days or hours to prevent New Zealand from following the path of Italy.

They’ve begun a petition, urging the Government to raise New Zealand’s covid-19 threat to the highest possible level, effectively locking down the country.

Dr Kelvin Ward, an urgent care physician in Wellington, handed the first lot of signatures to the Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield after the his daily press conference announcing the number of new Covid-19 cases.

“It’s not hyperbolic to say we have only hours to prevent the inevitable horrors we see in countries that waited too long.”

“Over 2200 people from the medical community have banded together to inform this hardworking government that New Zealand has only a short time to avoid disaster on the scale of Italy’s coronavirus epidemic – that’s how fast this virus spreads,” he said.

Medical Professionals to PM Ardern: 4 measures to protect NZ from COVID19

Let’s stand together as experts of the medical community and call for the New Zealand Government to immediately follow the examples of Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which resulted in successful containment.

Specifically there should be immediate:
1.     Quarantine (not self-isolation) of COVID-19 positive patients
2.     Extensive testing and contact tracing
3.     Self-isolation of all asymptomatic contacts
4.     Mandatory social lockdown

Currently 3,828 signatures.

A few minutes later (5:32 pm) it’s 4,193

Now it’s 38.840 (9:41 pm)

Prepare for lockdown

Rumours were rife in Australia on Tuesday that an internal lockdown announcement was imminent. That didn’t eventuate.

Here in New Zealand on Thursday afternoon internal lockdown rumours swirled – see Covid-19: Rumours, lockdowns and anxiety-fuelled social sharing – but media didn’t go public with the information. The  borders only were locked to anyone except New Zealand citizens and permanent residents. Australia followed suit.

But it looks likely we are headed for some degree of internal lockdown. From an interview on RNZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern…

…reiterated her message to be prepared, saying New Zealanders should be prepared to work from home and be prepared to cancel non-essential travel.

She said more than that, clearly implying the regional lockdowns were distinct possibilities, as was a national stay at home order, as has happened in a number of countries already, and has just been announced in California.

And Scott Morrison is signalling similar for Australia: PM flags further internal travel restrictions

Mr Morrison said Australians should “reconsider the need for unnecessary travel”.

Mr Morrison said further advice is being taken to the national cabinet next Tuesday night and will be available before people go on school holidays.

“I am just flagging that for next week, when we consider those issues on a broader scale,” he said.

So we have plenty of warning that we may be largely confined to our homes, possibly in the near future.

Most people I have talked to at work this week have been preparing for working from home.

I have been able to work from home for years so don’t need to do much more, but I guess need to mentally prepare for a major change in work and lifestyle.

It is being made clear that we all need to prepare for the possibility, if not likelihood, that we will be confined to home some time soon, and potentially for an extended period of time.


Jacinda Ardern is on Seven Sharp tonight to ‘answer questions’.

She has reiterated:

  • Prepare to work from home.
  • Prepare to not travel.