Covid-19: What you need to know

Young people near the University of Otago react to the news New Zealand’s Covid-19 status was...
Young people near the University of Otago react to the news New Zealand’s Covid-19 status was being raised. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY.
At 11.59pm tomorrow, New Zealand will go into an extreme and unprecedented nationwide lockdown.

All non-essential businesses will be closed and everyone will have to stay at home except for solitary exercise and visiting essential services.

Supermarkets will stay open throughout the four-week lockdown and the supply chain will stay running.

The Government is also in a completely unprecedented situation and so if an answer isn’t available, the lockdown task force will work to update its advice as and when situations develop.

When does the Covid-19 lockdown start?

The lockdown will start at 11.59pm tomorrow. That’s when the coronavirus alert level will rise to 4 because two cases of Covid-19 have identified as having been caused by community transmission.

What should I do before the lockdown?

Firstly, don’t panic. You will still be able to go to the supermarket, where there will always be food.

All of Government Controller John Ombler, who heads the lockdown task force, said the supply chain would stay operational.

But you should prepare and start making arrangements.

This includes making plans with your families and loved ones, getting contact details within your community and thinking about how you’ll make it through the lockdown.

If you’re in a different part of the country, you should make immediate arrangements to get home. There will be allowances for people not able to do so by tomorrow, but you should call the Covid-19 information helpline on 0800779-997 to let them know your circumstances and get advice.

The Government also has not ruled out roadblocks, but is hoping they’re not necessary.

Can I still go outside?

Yes. You can still go to the supermarket, go for a walk, exercise or take the children to the park or the dog for a walk.

But you won’t be able to interact with people outside of your self-isolation group.

The goal of the lockdown was to limit the spread of the virus and if you were looking for exceptions to the rule, you’d missed the point of it and it meant other New Zealanders would die, Mr Ombler said.

It could also mean New Zealand stayed in lockdown for longer than four weeks, Ms Ardern said.

"If you hang out with that friend at a park or see that family member for lunch, you risk spreading Covid-19 and extending everyone’s time in Level 4."

At the end of the four weeks, the Government will assess the risk and community spread and decide if it’s safe to drop the level to 3.

What if I co-parent?

The goal of the lockdown is to limit human interaction and contain the spread of Covid-19.

If you are able to share your children within your self-isolation, you can continue to do so.

If this isn’t possible, the Government is working on advice. In the meantime you should call the information helpline on 0800779-997

How will it be enforced?

Compliance with the lockdown will be enforced by the police and the New Zealand Defence Force.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who is on the Government’s lockdown task force, said Kiwis could expect to see a strong police presence on the street.

There is likely to be some military presence as well.

"I can understand that seeing an increase in presence by police and our military may not be what we’re used to in New Zealand, but they will be working together," Ms Ardern said.

Authorities have the power to enforce the lockdown if they see people flouting the rules.

Mr Bush said: "It’s about education and encouragement — we don’t want to get into a place where we have to enforce these directions, but we will if required."

The Government was also looking at measures to enforce quarantine on people who refused to comply, Director-general of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.

A number of options are being considered, including those like the one established at Whangaparaoa after the mercy flight from China last month.

What is considered an essential service?

Supermarkets and the supply chain that keeps them stocked will stay in operation.

You should not panic shop and stockpile groceries or pharmaceuticals.

The Prime Minister said there would be "plenty of food to go around".

There are not yet any rules about what happens at supermarkets and authorities are hoping it will not get to the point that strict controls are needed.

But Mr Bush said police would intervene to keep supermarkets safe and maintain order if needed.

Doctors, pharmacists and vets will stay open, and emergency services and some construction activity.

Public transport will continue to operate and you will be able to use it to get to any essential service that you need.

The media will continue to update you, hold the Government to account and help get answers to your questions.

Parliament will be adjourned for the four-week lockdown but a group, such as a select committee with the Opposition and others, will be established to keep the Government accountable for its decisions.

What happens to schools?

All schools are now closed for everyone except the children of identified essential workers, who will have until midnight tomorrow to make arrangements.

The school holidays have been brought forward so they will fall inside the four-week lockdown.

Outside, the Government is working to support schools and other education facilities teach pupils online while at home.

This includes ensuring all children have broadband and devices they can work on.

Will I still get paid?

Your employer should do everything it can to allow you to work from home.

If that is not possible, your employer has access to the Government’s wage subsidy scheme.

That means full-time employees should get $585 a week for up to 12 weeks and part-time employees (fewer than 20 hours a week) should get $350 a week.

This will be paid through your normal payroll channels.

What happens to restaurants?

Restaurants should be takeaway-only until New Zealand moves to alert level 4 and then they will have to shut down.

This means there will not be any fast food or takeaway options during the lockdown and you will have to cook for your family.

It is not yet clear whether weekly meal kits will be able to continue operating.

What if I need to urgently travel during the lockdown?

This situation is unprecedented and there is no model for the Government to follow.

Mr Ombler said people should contact the 0800779-997 if they had questions and the Government would update its advice.

The Government is working to find solutions as and when questions and scenarios arise.

 - by Amelia Wade

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