New guidelines for Covid-19 Level 4 rules on recreation and bubbles

On Friday the Ministry of Health issued a Health Act notice to all persons in New Zealand that most New Zealanders won’t have found let alone read (I had to search for it, and for a while yesterday it wouldn’t load).

Based on the the Ministry and the Police have issued joint Additional guidelines on Alert Level 4 rules:

The Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, has issued a Health Notice that provides additional guidance on the rules around the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 to ensure its success and help move the country out of lockdown as soon as possible.

The Notice sets out:

  • Everyone in New Zealand is to be isolated or quarantined at their current place of residence except as permitted for essential personal movement.
  • Exercise is to be done in an outdoor place that can be readily accessed from home and two-metre physical distancing must be maintained.
  • Recreation and exercise does not involve swimming, water-based activities (for example, surfing or boating), hunting, tramping, or other activities of a kind that expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services.
  • A child can leave the residence of one joint care-giver to visit or stay at the residence of another joint care-giver (and visit or stay at that residence) if there is a shared bubble arrangement.
  • A person can leave their residence to visit or stay at another residence (and visit or stay at that residence) under a shared bubble arrangement if:
    – One person lives alone in one, or both, of those residences; or
    – Everyone in one of those residences is a vulnerable person.

“Most New Zealanders are doing the right thing. In the first week of being at Alert Level 4 we have seen high rates of compliance,” Dr Bloomfield said.

“The best way to ensure the success of the lockdown is for everyone to play their part. That means staying at home, maintaining physical distancing when outdoors and washing your hands.”

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster welcomes the guidance and said Police’s primary goal is to ensure people understand the importance of staying home.

“The vast majority of New Zealanders have a high level of awareness of what they can and can’t do under the Alert Level 4 restrictions, and by and large people are doing a tremendous job,” he said.

“We want people to stay safe, but if a small number of people persist in deliberately flouting the restrictions, Police will have the discretion to warn or, if necessary, to arrest.

“The Health Notice makes it clear what types of outdoor exercise and recreation people shouldn’t do. Outside of that, we are asking people to stay local, apply common sense and not do anything that could risk exposure to injury or require search and rescue services.

“The public should not notice any significant change to policing as we continue to prioritise high visibility reassurance to the community, and a continued focus on day-to-day Police work.

“I have recently set a clear expectation of our staff on how we Police in the current environment.  We have today updated our operational guidelines to staff, to help them Police with confidence and certainty,” Commissioner Coster said.

Dr Bloomfield said the guidance also provides additional clarity around bubbles.

“Specifically, if you live alone and have already established a bubble with another household this can be maintained so long as both households have no contact with others – that they stay in their joint bubble,” Dr Bloomfield said.

“No one is immune to the virus. We are seeing high rates of people aged 20-29 with the virus. These people may not die of it, but if they are not following the rules they can pass it on to others.

“By clarifying the rules we are also reinforcing the ability of Police to enforce them. No one likes a rule breaker, especially when breaking the rules puts other New Zealanders’ lives at risk.

“We’ve started well but now is not the time to be complacent. We need to be extra vigilant to move out of Alert Level 4 as soon as possible, and Police have all the powers they need to make sure people not following the rules are dealt with,” Dr Bloomfield said.

“The Government can’t do this alone. Everyone has one job to do in helping to stamp out the virus, and that is to stay at home and follow the rules.”

More information: Health Act Notice(link is external)

Also Police Operational Guidelines – 4 April 2020

Police position

  1. We police by consent and must maintain the support of the wider public in our actions. This means our actions need to be seen as reasonable, proportionate, and aligned to the intent of the Level 4 restrictions.
  2. All non-essential businesses are required to close. Individuals must not congregate in a public place of amusement or recreation.
  3. All people in New Zealand are required to remain at their current place of residence, except as permitted for essential personal movement; and are required to maintain physical distancing, except from fellow residents; or to the extent necessary to
    access or provide an essential business
  4. Police may do anything reasonably necessary (including the use of force), to compel, enforce, or ensure compliance with a requirement made by a MOOH in the above Health Act orders (s70A(1)(e)).
  5. There is a power to stop and inspect any vehicle, and enquire into the purpose of travel under s 71A(2) to ensure people are not travelling in breach of the Health Act orders.
  6. Police have a power to enter, remain and inspect premises (s 71A(2)) if they have reasonable grounds to believe actions or gatherings are occurring in those premises that are not consistent with the Health Act orders.
  7. Police will not set up a Police Roadblock for Police purposes. However Police may place roadblocks as a direct request from their Territorial Authority EOC (in consultation with the District Commander). If a request is made to Police prior to the roadblock being enabled, The District Commander will notify the NCCC and SRO’s to ensure that these are captured and recorded. Random checkpoints to assess whether people are complying with the essential travel requirements may be part of a local deployment plan based on a risk assessment – these must be approved by the District Commander.

At all times we need to take a graduated response to any situation we encounter and apply a common sense understanding to the intent of what we are asking everyone in our communities to achieve.

  1. Engage with the parties and communicate with them to identify whether their current behaviour or activities are contrary to the government’s response to COVID19
  2. Educate them on the current requirements (if necessary) to correct their behaviour or activities
  3. Encourage compliance measures if required
  4. Enforcement – only resort to warnings or prosecutorial measures if absolutely necessary.

We want to support frontline staff to operate in a very different environment to which we traditionally police.

Every District is encountering circumstances where Police will need to respond, and make decisions about how to deal with situations as a result of the declaration of the state of emergency, and that are impacted by the Health Act orders.

This doesn’t mention an important part of Health Act Notice on Emergencies:

Both this and the Health Act Notice don’t mention key allowable essential personal movements: buying groceries and food, buying medical supplies (from a pharmacy) and seeking medical assistance.



Still getting mixed messages on allowable recreation

The Director-General of Health issued a Health Act Order yesterday that tried to clarify a number of things related to the Level 4 lockdown, including Permissions for essential personal movement which includes:

For the purposes of clause 1 of this order the following are permitted as essential personal movement:

Limited recreation arrangements
e.    a person leaving their residence for the purpose of recreation or exercise if-
iii.   it does not involve swimming, water based activities (for example, surfing or boating), hunting, tramping, or other activities of a kind that expose participants to danger or may require search and rescue services.

Section 70(1)(f) notice to all persons in New Zealand – 3 April 2020 [PDF, 1.4 MB]

But in the Covid-19 newsletter emailed out this afternoon it is a bit different:

Q. Can I go surfing, boating or tramping?

A. Rescue services do not want to be out rescuing people who get into trouble. Don’t go tramping, hunting, fishing, surfing, swimming, or boating, mountain biking or for long drives or long runs/bike rides, or any other non-essential activity where you might need to force rescue service personnel out of their own isolation, or take up valuable health service resources if you have an accident.

Remember, you can’t ever guarantee that you won’t get into trouble. The Police will determine what enforcement measures to take.

The newsletter includes “mountain biking or for long drives or long runs/bike rides” and also fishing which aren’t  specified in the Order.

They should be able to get on the same message on this.