More than 40 face prosecution for flouting lockdown rules

More than 40 people are facing prosecution for flouting lockdown rules, as police gear up for checkpoints over Easter.

New Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said New Zealand was now at a stage where people knew the rules - but some were flouting them anyway, including surfers.

There have been 45 prosecutions of people breaching the lockdown rules - up from 16 just days ago.

There had been 367 warning issued for flouting the lockdown, up 76 from yesterday.

There have been a total of 37,000 reports of breaches, Coster said.

Eight police staff had been spat at - which constituted an assault punishable for 14 years in prison.

Anyone who spat deliberately on others was "thoughtless" and "malicious".

Coster said that this weekend some people might think New Zealand was doing well in its fight against Covid-19 so it was okay to go out.

He said that was not the case.

Anyone planning to get away for a Easter break should "change your plans immediately".

Coster thanked the majority of New Zealanders who are following the lockdown rules.

But a minority continued to break the rules, he said.

Coster said police had not issued Health Minister David Clark a warning, after he broke the lockdown rules.

More checkpoints at Easter

People could expect to see more police out this weekend, with checkpoints across the country.

Since April 3, there have been 1200 checks on people who had arrived in New Zealand.

He said he is confident that by the end of the week, police will be checking on everyone who has come into New Zealand under the lockdown.

There has been an increase in family harm since the lockdown event, Coster said.

Data shows there will be an increase in the amount of calls in reference to mental health.

The total number of police staff who have Covid-19 remained at two, while 639 staff were in self-isolation.

Coster said it was "extremely" disappointing with an increasing number of reports of people spitting on police.

Eight officers who have been spat at have had to self-isolate.

If someone does this, they can face up to 14 years in jail

Asked about the staff who have been spat on, Coster said they will be tested for Covid-19 "if that is needed".

There has also been an increased amount of reports of people spitting on hospital staff and supermarket workers.

Civil Defence director Sarah Stuart-Black say for many people, "these have been the longest 14 days of your life".

She said more people over 70 are "managing well" in self-isolation.

"Please do ask for help if you need it," she said

So far, Civil Defence has provided 7727 food parcels.

She reiterated that yesterday, the National State of Emergency was extended for another seven days. This is the second time it has been extended.

PM: Obey the lockdown over Easter

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has already said that she expects everyone to continue to obey the lockdown rules, even though religious congregations in particular will be disappointed.

But she said today that people should hold virtual congregations and stay connected, even though churches will be closed.

Police have the power to set up road blocks and checkpoints, but in an interview earlier today, Coster said he would not be saying where those checkpoints will be.

He also told RNZ that police had focused on education early in the lockdown, but that focus will turn towards enforcement now that it was less of a reasonable excuse to say that the lockdown rules were unclear.

The national state of emergency was extended yesterday, which essential empower authorities to act in any way necessary to prevent further outbreak of Covid-19.

New guidance on police powers reveal that under alert level 4 police may do "anything reasonably necessary, including the use of force, to compel, enforce, or ensure compliance" of the lockdown measures.

They also have the power to "enter, remain and inspect" any household or office that is suspected of housing an unsanctioned gathering.

"There is a power to stop and inspect any vehicle, and enquire into the purpose of travel," the advice states.

It also says that police have the power to enter and inspect a premises if they have "reasonable grounds" to suspect there is a large gathering of people from different bubbles.

The advice states that police are not allowed to set up a police roadblock for usual police purposes.

Coster started in the commissioner role last week and recently shaved off his beard in solidarity because face masks did not fit well over facial hair.

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