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

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)

Trump blinked then caved on shutdown

Donald Trump failed to secure funding for a border wall with Mexico for the two years that the republicans held majorities in both Congress and the Senate. He blames the then speaker Paul Ryan (and probably a lot of others).

He seemed to think he could heavy the new Democrat House leadership into funding his wall, so he precipitated a partial Government shutdown and demanded it. And the new House leader Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t budge. If she had given in it would have probably set the scene for ongoing heavy handed demands from Trump.

It resulted in the longest government shutdown ever. Trump, already viewed by a majority unfavourably, started to tank in approval polls.

Pelosi withdrew her invitation to Trump for the annual State Of The Union speech in Congress until after the impasse was resolved. Trump threatened to speak elsewhere, but ended up blinking and postponing it.

The shutdown continued, and the bad press continued, and the polls dipped more.

Then on Friday Trump caved in, for now anyway.

Reuters: Backing down, Trump agrees to end shutdown without border wall money

President Donald Trump agreed under mounting pressure on Friday to end a 35-day-old partial U.S. government shutdown without getting the $5.7 billion he had demanded from Congress for a border wall, handing a political victory to Democrats.

The Republican president’s agreement to end the shuttering of about a quarter of the federal government without securing wall money – an astonishing retreat – came three days after he had insisted, “We will not Cave!”

But Trump vowed that the shutdown would resume on Feb. 15 if he is dissatisfied with the results of a bipartisan House-Senate conference committee’s border security negotiations, or he would declare a national emergency in order to get the wall money without congressional approval.

He has been threatening to declare a national emergency for some time – but if it was actually an emergency why wait? It hasn’t suddenly become an emergency.

With polls showing most Americans blamed him for the painful shutdown – the longest of its kind in U.S. history – Trump embraced a way out of the crisis that Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been pushing for weeks. The shutdown, which pitted Pelosi against Trump, was her first test since assuming the post three weeks ago.

Democrats remained unyielding in their opposition to a wall, one of Trump’s signature campaign promises that they call ineffective, costly and immoral.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden on a chilly, sunny winter day, Trump said he would act to ensure that federal workers get their back pay “very quickly, or as soon as possible.”

That’s a change in stance for Trump.

But this doesn’t end the problem, it just postpones it. And it may make Trump’s problems bigger. He had been encouraged into talking and tough on wall funding by some on the hard right, and they are not happy.

Fox News: Ann Coulter rips Trump over border wall on Bill Maher’s show after attacking president via Twitter

Conservative pundit Ann Coulter both blasted and defended President Trump during an appearance on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on Friday night — hours after she ripped into the president on Twitter for cutting a deal with Democrats to temporarily end the partial government shutdown without funding for his border wall.

Before appearing on the show, Coulter spent a good part of Friday blasting Trump on Twitter for accepting a temporary funding bill to reopen the government without money for the border wall.

“Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States,” she wrote in a series of tweets.

On the Maher show:

“I promise you the country would be run much better if I had a veto over what Donald Trump is doing. It’s crazy that I expect a president to keep the promise he made every day for 18 months.”

“Why hasn’t Trump been able to get it through for the first two years? Because the Republicans don’t want it.”

“I’m telling you how to get Trump,” Coulter said. “He promised something for 18 months and he lied about it. That’s how you get Trump. It’s not this Russia nonsense.”

This may damage Trump’s core support.

As is his habit Trump claimed some sort of victory on twitter:

“I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall. This was in no way a concession. It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!”

His words on the border wall have been a moving target as he fails to get funding.

He diidn’t care about the millions of people getting hurt by the shutdown when he made it happen – he even claimed that many unpaid workers supported what he had inflicted on them.

This has also inflicted a lot of damage on Trump’s ego. This sort of report won’t help: Art of the cave: Trump folds, finally

The man whose name graces the cover of “The Art of the Deal” called it a compromise, but let’s be clear: His agreement with Democrats to end the punch-yourself-in-the-face government shutdown was a complete capitulation, brought on in a panic when the gears of American air travel began grinding to a halt.

A less pigheaded politician would learn a hard lesson from how the embarrassing standoff backfired; he found himself unable to squirm out of responsibility for a cataclysm he had proudly announced was of his own making.

With Trump, the capacity for evolution is very much an open question. He spent most of his Rose Garden remarks repeating fearmongering tropes, most of them apocryphal, about the urgent need for a 30-foot-high wall along 1,000 miles of southern border.

It would be insane to think that we could be back in the same mess three weeks from now, but remember who sits in the Oval Office.

With Pelosi and the Democrats standing up to him until he blinked then caved. he next couple of years are going to be challenge for Trump, especially if the hard core right also turn against him.