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2020 coronavirus pandemic in New Zealand

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2020 coronavirus pandemic in New Zealand
COVID-19 Outbreak Cases in New Zealand (DHB Totals).svg
Map of the outbreak in New Zealand by District Health Board (as of 29 March 2020)
  50+ confirmed cases
  10–49 confirmed cases
  5–9 confirmed cases
  1–4 confirmed cases
DiseaseCOVID-19
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
LocationNew Zealand
First outbreakUnknown
Index caseAuckland
Arrival date28 February 2020
(1 month and 2 days)
Confirmed cases552[1]
Suspected cases37[2]
Recovered63[1]
Deaths
1
Official website
Government website
Suspected cases have not been confirmed as being due to this strain by laboratory tests, although some other strains may have been ruled out.

The first case of the global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in New Zealand was reported on 28 February 2020. The country has a total of 589 cases (552 confirmed and 37 probable cases) as of 30 March 2020. One person has died from the virus.[1] Cases have occurred in all 20 district health board areas of the country.

Timeline

All of the following dates and times are in New Zealand Time: NZDT (UTC+13:00) until 5 April and NZST (UTC+12:00) thereafter.

January 2020

On 28 January, the Ministry of Health set up the National Health Coordination Centre (NHCC) in response to the outbreak.[3] An Infectious and Notifiable Diseases Order was issued to take effect from 30 January,[4] which required health practitioners to report any suspected cases under the Health Act 1956.[5]

February 2020

On 3 February, the New Zealand Government announced that foreign travellers who left from China would be denied entry to New Zealand, with only New Zealand citizens and permanent residents and their family being allowed to enter.[6] Universities asked for the Government to exempt Chinese students who are travelling to study in New Zealand.[7][8] Foreigners who left China and spent at least 14 days in another country were permitted to enter New Zealand.[9] The ban was extended for an additional eight days on 24 February.[10]

On 4 February, the cruise ship Diamond Princess was quarantined by Japanese authorities in Yokohama after passengers were confirmed to have COVID-19.[11] Eleven New Zealanders were reported to be on board.[12] By 20 February, four New Zealand passengers had tested positive for the virus and were being treated in Japan. Two of them had been due to travel on an evacuation flight being organised by the Australian government.[13]

On 5 February, a government-chartered flight operated by Air New Zealand arrived in Auckland from Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The city of Wuhan had been under lockdown since 23 January.[14] The flight carried 193 passengers, including 54 New Zealand citizens and 44 permanent residents.[15] Thirty-five Australian passengers were transferred to an Australian flight, while the remaining 157 passengers were quarantined in a military facility at Whangaparaoa for 14 days. The passengers were subsequently released on 19 February.[16]

New Zealand confirmed its first case on 28 February, a New Zealand citizen in her 60s who had recently visited Iran, returning via Bali, Indonesia, and arriving in New Zealand on 26 February at Auckland. She had two tests for COVID-19 that were negative, but a third test using a more specific sample was positive. She was admitted to Auckland City Hospital.[17][18][19][20] New Zealand was the 48th country to have a confirmed case of COVID-19.[17] Also on 28 February, the Government extended the travel restrictions to include travellers coming from Iran.[21]

March 2020

On 4 March, a New Zealand woman in her 30s who had returned from northern Italy on 25 February was confirmed as the second case of the virus in New Zealand.[22] She had flown into Auckland via Singapore, and subsequently caught domestic flights to and from Palmerston North on 2 March.[23] Her partner also displayed symptoms of the virus, and was confirmed as the fourth case on 6 March.[23][24]

On 5 March, the third confirmed New Zealand case and the first case of local transmission was reported. An Auckland man in his 40s was infected with COVID-19 by a family member who had returned from Iran on 23 February.[25] Three other members of his family had previously been unwell. Two family members had arrived in New Zealand from Iran on 23 February.[26] On 7 March, a fifth case was announced, a woman in her 40s who was the partner of the third case.[27][28] One of the family members who had returned from Iran was the father of the third case, and is considered a probable case.[29]

On 6 March, the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said that eight people from New Zealand had been passengers on the 11–21 February cruise of Grand Princess from San Francisco to Mexico and back and may have been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. All eight had already returned to New Zealand.[30] One was a woman in her 70s who had been in the hospital for respiratory illness and was discharged and is considered a probable case.[29]

On 14 March, a sixth confirmed case was announced, an Auckland man in his 60s who had recently returned from the United States. He went into self isolation.[31]

On 15 March, two more cases were confirmed, bringing the total number of infected in New Zealand to eight. The seventh case was a man who travelled from Australia to Wellington. The eighth case was of a woman who was a visitor from Denmark arriving in Auckland via Doha and then Christchurch, before driving on towards Queenstown, where she became ill and was hospitalised.[32]

On 17 March, four more cases were confirmed, bringing the total number of infected in New Zealand to 12.[33] The ninth and tenth cases were a Wellington man and his father, who had travelled back from the United States. The eleventh case was a man from Dunedin, who had travelled back from Germany.[34][35] The twelfth case was a Dunedin high school student who was the son of the eleventh case.[33][36]

On 18 March, the Ministry of Health confirmed that New Zealand had eight new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 20. Four of these new cases were in Auckland, two in the Waikato region, one in Christchurch, and one in Invercargill.[37][38]

On 19 March, the Ministry of Health confirmed another eight new cases of the Coronavirus, bringing the total to 28. Two of the new cases were in Auckland, two in Taranaki, one in Dunedin, one in Queenstown, one in Northland, and one in Rotorua.[39][40][41]

On 20 March, the Ministry of Health confirmed 11 new cases of the Coronavirus, bringing the total to 39: five in Auckland, two in Waikato, two in Wellington, one in Canterbury, and one in Hawke's Bay. All new cases were associated with overseas travel.[42][43]

On 21 March, 13 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 52. For two of the cases, no link to overseas travel had been discovered and the Ministry of Health was continuing to investigate.[2][44]

On 22 March, 14 new cases were confirmed, bring the total to 66. 11 of the new cases had a history of international travel. Two of the other cases had attended the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown, which was held on 9–13 March and had New Zealand and international delegates.[45][46]

On 23 March, 36 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total to 102.[47][48] This number includes two suspected community-spread cases, which led Ardern to declare that New Zealand would enter alert level 3, effective immediately, during the health ministry briefing from 1:40 pm.

On 24 March, 40 new cases were confirmed, out of 1400 tests processed. From this date on, probable cases will be included in the numbers of cases, bringing the total number of cases to 155. These figures also include four cases of community transmission; three in Auckland and one in Wairarapa.[49][50][51]

On 25 March, 50 new cases were reported, including probable cases, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable cases to 205. A national state of emergency was declared by Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare at 12:21 pm in Parliament before the country enterered alert level 4 at 11:59 pm. This state of emergency will last for seven days but may be extended.[52][53]

On 26 March, a further 78 confirmed and probable cases were reported, bringing the total to 283. A total of 27 people have now recovered from the virus.[54] In addition, it was reported that 168 New Zealand travellers were in quarantine.[55]

On 27 March, 85 new confirmed and probable cases were reported, bringing the total to 368.[56]

On 28 March, health authorities reported 83 new cases including 78 confirmed and five probable cases, bringing the total to 451.[57] Air New Zealand also confirmed that several of its staff had tested positive for the Coronavirus.[58]

On 29 March, 60 new confirmed and 3 new probable cases were reported, bringing the total of confirmed and probable cases to 514. A total of 56 people have recovered. The first coronavirus-related death in New Zealand was reported on this day. The individual was a woman in her 70s from the West Coast region.[59][60]

On 30 March, 76 more confirmed cases were reported and one previous probable case was confirmed negative, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable cases to 589. On this day it was also reported that the total number of confirmed community-spread cases was 10, or around 2% of the total, and that 57% of confirmed cases are directly related to overseas travel and 27% are close contacts of a confirmed case. A total of 63 people have been reported to have recovered. Twelve people are currently in hospitals around the country with two being in intensive care.[61][62]

Alert level system

On 21 March at midday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the introduction of a country-wide alert level system, similar to the existing fire warning systems. There are four levels, with 1 being the least risk of infection and 4 the highest. At the time of Ardern's announcement she stated that New Zealand was at level 2. Each level brings added restrictions on activities or movements. Each region can have an individual alert level based on the severity of their own infections, and these levels can be changed at any time.[63][64]

Levels are cumulative – each level includes the restrictions of the level below it. Ardern stated that New Zealanders should always be prepared for the next level. New Zealand was moved to Level 4 at 11:59 pm on 25 March.[65]

The alert levels are as follows:

  • Level 1 – The outbreak is contained, and there is little risk of infection to the community. At this stage, preparation is key.
    • Border entry measures and contact tracing are active.
    • Mass gatherings over 500 are cancelled.
  • Level 2 – The outbreak is mostly contained, and there is a growing risk to the community.
    • Over 70s and those with immunity deficiencies or respiratory issues are advised to stay home.
    • If you can stay and work from home, you are advised to do so.
    • More border restrictions are active and limits on non-essential travel.
    • Further restrictions on mass gatherings are in effect.
    • Social distancing is encouraged.
  • Level 3 – The outbreak is growing, and there is a risk of infection to the public.
    • Affected educational facilities closed
    • Public venues closed
    • Non-urgent healthcare deferred.
    • All mass gatherings cancelled.
  • Level 4 – The outbreak is growing significantly, and there is a very high risk of infection.
    • Everyone is instructed to stay home.
    • All educational facilities closed.
    • All businesses closed, except essential services.
    • Travel severely limited
    • Rationing of supplies and requisitioning of facilities

Essential services

On 23 March 2020, the New Zealand Government has released a list of essential services allowed to remain open during the four week lockdown that came into effect after the country entered a Level 4 alert on midnight 26 March 2020. In addition, the Government is providing a wage subsidy, leave and self-isolation support, and business cash flow and tax measures. Details relating to essential services include:[66][67][68]

  • Accommodation
    • Any entity that provides accommodation services for essential workers, isolation/quarantine, and emergency housing.
    • Retirement villages
  • Border
  • Building and construction
    • Any entity involved in building and construction related to essential services and critical infrastructure, including those in the supply and support chain
    • Any entity involved in any work required to address immediate health or life safety risks, or to prevent serious environmental harm, and relevant essential supply-chain elements
    • Any entity with statutory responsibilities or that is involved in building and resource consenting necessary for the above purposes.
  • Courts, tribunals and the justice system
  • Fast-moving community goods
    • Any entity involved in the supply, delivery, distribution and sale of food, beverage and other key consumer goods essential for maintaining the wellbeing of people.
  • Financial services
    • Any entity that operates consumer and business financial services, financial services infrastructure including banking services, a stock exchange, broking services, payment and settlement systems, funds management including KiwiSaver, insurance services, financial advice, and support services such as administrators, supervisors and custodians.
  • Health
    • District Health Boards (and all of their facilities), Pharmac, New Zealand Blood Service, Health Promotion Agency, Health Quality and Safety Commission
    • Any person employed or contracted as a doctor, nurse, midwife, pharmacist, paramedic, medical laboratory scientists, kaiāwhina workers, social workers, aged-care and community workers, and caregivers more generally.
    • Hospitals, primary care clinics, pharmacies, medical laboratories, care facilities (e.g. rest homes)
    • Emergency dental and optometry care services
    • Any entity providing ambulance services
    • Any entity involved with the deceased/tūpāpaku (e.g. funeral homes, crematoria, cemeteries)
    • Any entity producing health sector equipment, medicines and PPE
  • Local and national government
    • Any entity involved in COVID-19 response, enforcement, planning or logistics or that has civil-defence/emergency management functions (including any entity that supplies services for these purposes).
    • Key public services.
  • Primary industries, including food and beverage production and processing
    • Any entity involved in the packaging, production and processing of food and beverage products, whether for domestic consumption or export.
    • Any entity involved in relevant support services, such as food safety and verification, inspection or associated laboratory services, food-safety and biosecurity functions.
    • Any entity providing veterinary services.
    • Any entity whose closure would jeopardise the maintenance of animal-health or -welfare standards (including the short-term survival of a species).
  • Public safety and national security
  • Science
    • ESR, GNS Science, GeoNet, NIWA, MetService
    • Any entity (including research organisations) involved in COVID-19 response.
    • Any entity (including research organisations) involved in hazard monitoring and resilience.
    • Any entity (including research organisations) involved in diagnostics for essential services like biosecurity, public health.
    • Laboratories and Physical Containment level 3 (PC3) facilities that could provide essential services and products that could be used to respond to COVID-19.
    • Other significant research facilities including animal facilities, clinical trials and infrastructure that require constant attention (e.g. samples, collections and storage facilities) that are important to New Zealand.
  • Social services
  • Transport and logistics
    • Ministry of Transport, New Zealand Customs Service, New Zealand Transport Agency, Civil Aviation Authority (including Aviation Security Service), Maritime New Zealand (including the Rescue Coordination Centre), Airways NZ, MetService, KiwiRail (including Interislander), and any entity which is contracted by these entities.
    • Any entity that provides, or is contracted to an entity that provides, logistics services, including New Zealand Post and courier services.
    • Any entity providing, or is contracted by an entity that provides, transport services to the Ministry of Health, a District Health Board, a Medical Officer of Health, or a Controller (as defined in section 4 of the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002).
    • Any entity which provides services related to the maintenance and ongoing operation of critical infrastructure (e.g. roads, rail, ports, airports).
    • Any entity which operates or is contracted by an entity listed in Schedule 1 of the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002, an aerodrome, a passenger and/or freight aviation service, a passenger and/or freight shipping service, a road freight service, a rail freight service, a vehicle recovery service; or a public transport service (under contract with a Regional Council).
    • Any small passenger-service vehicle driver (who holds the relevant licence) such as ride-share or taxi drivers.
    • Any entity providing services to keep vehicles operational for essential work purposes (e.g. vehicle testing, mechanics, tyre services).
  • Utilities and communications, including supply chains
    • Any entity involved in the production, supply, sale distribution or disposal of electricity, gas, water, waste water (e.g. sanitation), waste (e.g. rubbish collection and recycling), liquid and solid fuel, telecommunication services, and any entity that is contracted by these entities
    • The delivery of solid fuels (including firewood, pellets and coal) for immediate needs (e.g. home heating) or fulfilling existing orders, is an essential service.
    • News (including news production) and broadcast media
    • Internet service providers
    • Any entity that provides maintenance and repair services for utilities and communications, including supply chains.
    • Any entity supplying services to an essential workplace that are required for the safe operation of that workplace (e.g. cleaning, security services).
    • Commercial cleaners that clean common areas of apartment buildings may also continue to operate, where there is high-traffic (e.g. lifts, stairwells).
  • Additional decisions and exemptions
    • All supermarkets are considered an essential service
    • Farmers markets are not considered to be an essential service, as alternatives are available
    • 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 and backpacker accommodation providers may continue to operate under very strict protocols and management of access. E.g. 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
    • Butchers, bakeries and similar small-scale food retailers are considered non-essential, as similar products are readily available in supermarkets.
    • 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, e.g. 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.
    • Dairies can remain open, with a one-in-one-out rule, and cannot sell cooked food.
    • Food delivery is prohibited except for supermarket deliveries. Meals-on-Wheels and alternative meals on wheels services that have been referred from a DHB, ACC or MSD may operate and whole-food delivery may continue to operate (e.g. subscription food boxes are okay)
    • Every restaurant, café and bar must close all aspects of their operation.
    • Liquor stores must close, unless they are within monopoly Licensing Trust areas (e.g. Waitakere, Invercargill) in which case they can operate with a one-in-one-out rule.
    • Self-service laundries can stay open, with 2-metre physical distancing to be enforced.
    • Retirement villages are included as an essential service.
    • The Warehouse department stores must close.
    • 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 Aluminuim Smelter is exempt from closure, due to the long and complicated process of closing and restarting the potlines.[69]
    • New Zealand Steel is to shut down in a way that allows for production to recommence easily.
    • Pulp and paper plants (e.g. Tasman, Kinleith) 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.

Testing

There is concern COVID-19 tests have been given only to people who have returned with symptoms from impacted countries or people who have been in contact with a confirmed case.[70] People with symptoms not fitting these categories have not been tested.[71]

NZ case definition for COVID-19 testing from 14 March:[72]

  • symptoms (fever or cough or shortness of breath or sore throat) and travel history
  • symptoms (fever or cough or shortness of breath or sore throat) and close or causal contact with a suspect, probable or confirmed case
  • healthcare workers with pneumonia
  • people treated in intensive care units for severe respiratory illnesses

For cases not fitting this case definition doctors are encouraged to use their own judgement whether to test the patient or not.[73]

Repatriation of citizens, residents, and travellers

In early February 2020, the New Zealand Government used a chartered Air New Zealand flight to evacuate 193 passengers from Wuhan, China, including 54 New Zealand citizens, 44 permanent residents, 35 Australians, and several Pacific Islands nationals. 35 Australian passengers were transferred to an Australian flight, while the remaining 157 passengers were quarantined in a military facility at Whangaparaoa for 14 days. The passengers were subsequently released on 19 February.[15][16]

On 17 March, Newshub reported that the Australian Border Force had suspended the repatriation of New Zealand deportees between 16 and 30 March 2020 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.[74]

On 19 March, Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced that the New Zealand Government was considering more mercy flights to evacuate New Zealanders stranded overseas in response to the spread of the pandemic to Europe, North America and other international locations.[75][76] On 24 March, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern urged New Zealanders abroad to return home with while recognising that many will not be able to return home due to the disruption of international travel. Foreign Minister Peters has urged New Zealanders stranded overseas to considering sheltering "in place." Peters estimated there were 80,000 New Zealanders stranded overseas; of whom 17,000 have registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's "Safe Travel" programme.[77]

On 24 March, the New Zealand Government automatically extended all temporary visas until late September 2020. Travellers whose visas expire before 1 April are allowed to remain if they are unable to leave the country.[77] On 25 March 2020, the British and German governments announced that they will be sending mercy flights to repatriate stranded citizens in New Zealand, many of whom are tourists. The German government has made arrangements for sending mercy flights to Auckland and Christchurch. The British Government has made arrangements for British nationals to transit through Singapore during their return from New Zealand.[78]

On 28 March, it was reported that about 24 New Zealanders were stranded in Peru because they could not board a charted Australian flight due to changes in Australian transit rules requiring overseas travellers to transit on the same day as their arrival.[79][80]

On 29 March, 108 New Zealanders were allowed to disembark from the cruiser liner Vasco Da Gama, which had been berthed at Fremantle, Western Australia for two weeks. Following the cancellation of the cruise, the passengers had been stranded aboard the cruise ship for two weeks. The passengers were repatriated to Auckland via an Air New Zealand flight.[81]

Reactions

Central government responses

Two cruise ships—Celebrity Solstice and Azamara Journey—in Port Chalmers on 15 March

On 14 March, ahead of the first anniversary of the Christchurch mosque shootings that killed 51 people, a national remembrance service was cancelled out of concerns over the virus. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the decision was a pragmatic one, adding, "We're very saddened to cancel [it], but in remembering such a terrible tragedy, we shouldn't create the risk of further harm being done." An Auckland festival celebrating Pacific culture was also cancelled.[82] Ardern announced that, effective 01:00 on 16 March, all travellers arriving in or returning to New Zealand from outside of the country must self-isolate for 14 days. This applies to all travellers, even if they are New Zealand citizens, but excludes travel from the Pacific islands unless the traveller is symptomatic. In addition, restrictions were placed on travel to the Pacific islands from New Zealand, barring travel to the region by those showing signs of coronavirus symptoms, as well as close contacts of coronavirus patients. Cruise ships will be prohibited from docking in New Zealand until 30 June. Ardern described these as being among the "widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world".[83][84][85]

On 16 March, Ardern called for a halt to public gatherings of more than 500 people and warned that the outbreak could lead to a recession greater than the 2008 global financial crisis.[86][87]

On 17 March, Health Minister David Clark announced that the Government would deport foreign tourists who flout self-quarantine restrictions.[88] That same day, Immigration New Zealand placed two foreign tourists into forced quarantine for defying Government requirements to self-quarantine for two weeks. The tourists were ordered to leave New Zealand following their quarantine.[89][90] Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced a NZ$12.1 billion Covid-19 business package that included $8.7 billion for businesses and jobs, $2.8 billion for income support, $500 million for health, and $600 million for the aviation sector and to support supply chains (this did not include any support for Air New Zealand).[91][92][93]

On 18 March, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) urged all New Zealanders traveling overseas to return home.[94] In addition, Ardern announced that the New Zealand and Australian Governments would be cancelling Anzac Day services scheduled to be held at Gallipoli in Turkey in response to travel restrictions and the coronavirus outbreak.[95][96]

On 19 March, the Government required the cancellation of indoor gatherings of more than 100 people. This did not apply to workplaces, schools, supermarkets or public transport.[97][98] Ardern announced the closure of New Zealand's borders to all but New Zealand citizens and residents, with effect after 11:59 pm that night. Unlike the previous travel restrictions, this ban also includes Pacific Islanders. Returning New Zealanders are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon entry. The partners, legal guardians or any dependent children travelling with returning New Zealand can return but will need to self-isolate as well.[99][100] However, Samoan and Tongan citizens traveling to New Zealand for essential reasons, "essential health workers", and those seeking to enter the country for humanitarian reasons are exempt from the travel ban.[101]

On 21 March, Ardern introduced a country-wide alert level system to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, similar to the existing fire warning systems. There are four levels, with 1 being the least risk of infection and 4 the highest. The alert level was set to 2 and people over 70 years old and those with compromised immune systems were asked to stay at home.[64]

An Emergency Mobile Alert sent at 18:30 on 25 March 2020, informing of the imminent move to Alert Level 4.

On 22 March, Associate Health and Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare announced that the Government would be investing NZ$56.4 million in funding to aid Māori communities and businesses affected by the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. This includes investing NZ$30 million to directly support Māori health workers, NZ$15 million to supporting to Whānau Ora commissioning agencies, and NZ$10 million to support the community outreach.[102]

On 23 March, Ardern raised the alert level to three and announced the closure of all schools beginning that day. She also announced that the alert level would rise to four at 11:59pm on 25 March, instituting a nationwide lockdown. All sports matches and events as well as non-essential services such as pools, bars, cafes, restaurants, playgrounds were required to close in 48 hours, while essential services such as supermarkets, petrol stations, and health services would remain open.[103][104][105]

On 24 March, the Government announced that Parliament would adjourn for five weeks beginning on 27 March.[106][107] Prior to its closure, Parliament passed three bills with cross-party support including:

  • the "Imprest Supply (Third for 2019/20) Bill", which invests NZ$52 million into emergency spending;
  • the "COVID-19 Response (Taxation and Social Assistance Urgent Measures) Bill", which allows the Inland Revenue Department to remit interest on tax owing after 14 February; and
  • "COVID-19 Response (Urgent Management Measures) Legislation Bill", which allows local authorities to meet remotely, the Government to take over schools, and prevents no-cause evictions and freezes rents for six months.[108]

That same day, the Finance Minister announced that the Government was negotiating with banks to ensure that nobody would lose their homes as a result of defaulting on mortgage payments during the pandemic.[109] The Ministry of Social Development's Work and Income NZ division, which deals with welfare payments, switched from face-to-face services to online and phone services, and implemented shift work at its contact and processing centres to facilitate physical distancing.[110]

On 25 March, it was announced that Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges would chair a cross-party committee called the Epidemic Response Committee to scrutinise the Government's response to Covid-19. Two-thirds of members will be from the opposition National and ACT parties while the remaining third will come from the governing Labour, New Zealand First, and Green parties. Known members include New Zealand First deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau, Greens Co-Leader Marama Davidson, and ACT Party leader David Seymour.[106][107]

On 26 March, Prime Minister Ardern announced that the Government will give $27 million to social service providers such as the Salvation Army and Women's Refuge to help the vulnerable cope with the lockdown.[111] Finance Minister Robertson also announced that the Government had paid $1.5 billion to more than 240,000 workers as part of its Wage Subsidy scheme in response to the pandemic.[112]

On 29 March, the New Zealand Police launches a new online form on their website for people to report COVID-19 Alert Level 4 restriction breaches including isolation breaches and businesses operating illegally.[113][114]

Following negotiations with Prime Minister Ardern, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that New Zealanders in Australia, who held a Special Category Visa, would be eligible for AU$1,500 fortnightly payments as hardship assistance. Many New Zealanders had been forced to return after being unable to access Australian Centrelink payments.[115]

Local and regional governmental responses

On 20 March, the Auckland Council closed all public libraries, swimming pools, and recreational centres, including the Auckland Art Gallery and the New Zealand Maritime Museum.[116][117]

On 21 March, several local body councils in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Lower Hutt and Porirua announced the closures of public facilities including swimming pools, libraries, recreation centres, community centres, art galleries, and museums.[118][119][120][121]

On 24 March, the Auckland Council announced they were closing their campgrounds and Environment Canterbury announced that they would also close New Zealand Motor Caravan Association camping grounds within 48 hours.[109]

Business responses

Airlines

On 16 March, national carrier Air New Zealand announced that it would be reducing its long-haul capacity by 85% and its personnel by 30% in response to declining demand and revenue as a result of the outbreak. In addition to the previously suspended flights to Shanghai and Seoul, the airline suspended flights to several major international cities including San Francisco, Houston, Buenos Aires, Vancouver, Tokyo, Honolulu, Denpasar, and Taipei between 30 March and 30 June as well as its London HeathrowLos Angeles service. The airline also reduced trans-Tasman capacity by 80%, and the domestic network capacity would be reduced in March and April 2020. It would maintain enough overseas flights for returning New Zealanders and evacuees as well as essential air freight.[122][123][124] On 20 March, the Government loaned Air New Zealand NZ$900 million to protect essential air routes and to keep the company operating.[125][126]

On 19 March, it was reported that Qantas and Jetstar were suspending their New Zealand operations as part of their efforts to suspend international flights in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.[127]

On 25 March, Air New Zealand's chief revenue officer announced the airline would cut back to just ten international and fifth-freedom routes from 30 March to 1 May: from Auckland to Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Rarotonga, Nadi, Niue, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, and from Norfolk Island to Sydney and Brisbane. The Auckland to Shanghai route would resume on 2 May.[128]

Camping grounds

On 24 March, the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association announced that it was closing all campervan parks in the light of the imminent COVID-19 Level 4 alert.[109]

Film industry

On 17 March, Jon Landau, the co-producer of the Avatar film sequels, announced that film production at the Wellington-based Stone Street Studios had been suspended in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.[129] However, visual effects will continue at Weta Digital in Wellington.[130]

Retail sector

On 25 March 2020, The Warehouse Group prematurely announced that they were an "essential service" without consulting with the Government. When they were deemed not to be an essential service, the Warehouse shut down its brands including The Warehouse, Warehouse Stationery, Torpedo7, Noel Leeming, 1-day and TheMarket for the duration of the four-week lockdown, with all staff being put on full paid leave. The company also faces a fine of NZ$500,000 if it is found to have breached the New Zealand Exchange's disclosure rules with more penalties if the company is found to have profited from a rise in its share price resulting from the announcement.[131][132][133]

On 27 March, the national retail chain Mad Butcher was ordered to shut operations since it did not meet the Government's criteria of essential services. Mad Butcher chief executive Michael Morton expressed frustration with a lack of clarity from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The company is projected to lose NZ$3 million in meat.[134]

Civil society responses

Empty bread shelves at a supermarket in Wellington after panic buying
Empty bread shelves at a supermarket in Wellington after panic buying (22 March 2020)

Increased demand for face masks and hand sanitisers led to shortages nationwide in supermarkets and pharmacies.[135][136] Following the first New Zealand case of COVID-19 on 28 February, customers were reportedly panic-buying supplies at Auckland supermarkets.[137][138]

Following the implementation of stronger border controls, SANZAAR announced on 14 March that it would suspend play of its Super Rugby season (which features five New Zealand teams) following the conclusion of that weekend's matches.[139]

On 15 March it was announced that the Warbirds Over Wanaka 2020 airshow was cancelled due to the Government's response to the pandemic.[140] This was the first time in the biennial event's history that it had been cancelled.

On 19 March, the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association announced that all Anzac Day services, scheduled for 25 April, would be cancelled and the red poppy collection postponed due to the health risk. This was the first time that Anzac Day services have not been held since 1916.[141]

Māori responses

A Wellington iwi placed a taupāruru (restriction) on the practice of hongi, a traditional Māori greeting, in response to the outbreak.[142]

On 24 March, former Tai Tokerau Member of Parliament Hone Harawira announced that local iwi in the Far North were working with local authorities and Mayor of Far North John Carter to set up roadblocks to prevent foreign tourists from traveling into the area. Tourists in the area would be encouraged to leave the Far North. Roadblocks were set up at State Highway 1 at Whakapara and State Highway 12 at Waipoua. Harawira criticised the Government for not stopping tourists from entering the country prior to the border closure.[143] By 26 March, at least three groups of tourists had been stopped from entering the Far North. A testing centre was also set up at Waiomio Hill to test locals returning from overseas.[144]

Faith communities' responses

In mid-March, several faith communities and denominations including the Catholic Church, the Supreme Sikh Society, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and LIFE church announced that they would be cancelling or reducing large gatherings and taking more health precautions in response to the Government's ban on gatherings with more than 100 people. However, Bishop Brian Tamaki's Destiny Church initially refused to close their services, with Tamaki stating that they would not let a "filthy virus" scare them out of attending church.[145] In response, infectious diseases expert Dr Siouxsie Wiles criticised Bishop Tamaki for undermining efforts to keep New Zealanders safe.[146]

Smaller congregations like Elim Church and C3 Church in Marlborough, New Zealand have halved services in order to comply with the Government's ban on gatherings with more than 100 people while the Nativity Church has set up networks to support parishioners.[147]

On 20 March, the Catholic Bishops of Aotearoa New Zealand declared that all Roman Catholic Masses would be suspended for the foreseeable future. This decision was made in line with the government's decision to cancel mass indoor events with more than 100 people.[148]

On 29 March, it was reported that members of the exclusive Gloriavale Christian Community were not complying with lockdown measures and that daycare centres, schools, and meetings were still ongoing. The Police have since announced that they are working with Gloriavale to make sure that its members abided with lockdown restrictions.[149]

Education sector's responses

On 17 March, Logan Park High School in Dunedin closed for 48 hours after one of its students tested positive for the coronavirus.[33][36] That same day, the University of Canterbury became the first university in New Zealand to recall its exchange students from overseas, stating that "Given the rapidly escalating global situation and the increasing amount of travel restrictions worldwide, and intensive consultation with our partners, [we have] made the very difficult decision to suspend our exchange programmes and recall all UC outbound exchange students, effective immediately."[150]

On 20 March, Massey University stopped face-to-face teaching of courses that could be taught by distance.[151] The University of Auckland suspended classes for the week of 23–27 March to allow staff to prepare for remote teaching in the event of a partial campus closure.[152][151] The University of Otago in Dunedin has also shifted classes with more than 100 students online in a bid.[153]

On 21 March, Auckland University of Technology announced that it would be suspending teaching in response to a petition from students.[154] The University of Canterbury also announced they could move to online learning.[155]

On 23 March, several schools in Auckland including Marist College, Randwick Park School and Glendowie College closed after several teachers and parents tested positive for the coronavirus.[156][157] That same day, the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand called on the Government to shut down all schools immediately.[158] In response to a spike of cases and the upgrading of New Zealand's coronavirus alert level to Level 3, the Government closed down all schools and early childhood centres. Universities were also expected to follow suit.[159]

Public opinion surveys

An Utting Research poll conducted on 1–2 March found that 47% of respondents were satisfied with the government's overall response to the COVID-19 outbreak, with 34% unsatisfied and 19% unsure.[160] A subsequent poll conducted on 21–22 March, prior to the lockdown announcement, found that 62% of respondents were satisfied with the response.[161] However, 37% were not confident a large-scale outbreak could be prevented in New Zealand, with 26% confident and 36% unsure.[161]

Date Polling organisation Sample size Satisfied Not satisifed Unsure Lead
21–22 March 2020 Utting Research/Stuff 3,133 62 22 16 40
1–2 March 2020 Utting Research/Stuff 1,900 47 37 16 10

Statistics

COVID-19 cases in New Zealand  ()
     Deaths        Recoveries        Active cases
Date
# of cases
2020-02-28
1(n.a.)
1(=)
2020-03-04
2(+100%)
2020-03-05
4(+100%)
2020-03-06
4(=)
2020-03-07
5(+25%)
5(=)
2020-03-14
6(+20%)
2020-03-15
8(+33%)
2020-03-16
8(=)
2020-03-17
12(+50%)
2020-03-18
20(+67%)
2020-03-19
28(+40%)
2020-03-20
39(+39%)
2020-03-21
52(+33%)
2020-03-22
66(+27%)
2020-03-23
102(+55%)
2020-03-24
155(+52%)
2020-03-25
205(+32%)
2020-03-26
283(+38%)
2020-03-27
368(+30%)
2020-03-28
451(+23%)
2020-03-29
514(+14%)
2020-03-30
589(+15%)
Sources: Official reports from the New Zealand Ministry of Health[162][163]

As of 30 March 2020, there are 589 cases (552 confirmed, and 37 probable cases) of coronavirus (COVID-19) in New Zealand.[1] Based on the December 2019 national population estimate of 4,951,500[164] this gives the country 111.48 confirmed cases per million population (118.95 confirmed and probable cases per million population).

Broken down by island:

Broken down by district health board (DHB):

No cases have been reported in the associated states of Cook Islands and Niue and dependent territory Tokelau.

Progression of COVID-19

Progression of COVID-19 cases in New Zealand:[165]

Notes

  • Borders closed to all but New Zealand citizens and residents at 11:59pm on 19 March. [166][167]
  • Lockdown began at 12:00am on 26 March. [168]
  • First death related to coronavirus reported on 29 March. [169][170]

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