Two metres not a magic number: expert

A health expert is calling for a measure of good sense this Easter break, urging the public not to misinterpret the social distancing rule of keeping two metres apart to justify socialising.

University of Auckland microbiologist and infectious diseases specialist, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, said it was important people keep following the rules in the second half of the lockdown.

"What's really important now is that nobody starts breaking their bubble because that would see the numbers start to go up again in a week or two's time."

Socialising with neighbours over Easter - even though it might be 2m apart and over the fence - wasn't acceptable, she said.

"Keeping two metres apart is for when you're out and about and you're going to have a very quick contact near somebody.

"What we really mustn't do is think that that two metres is a magical number that means we can spend an hour chatting with somebody over a glass of wine. It's just simply not true."

Her comments came as police announced they would be out in force over the Easter weekend, with checkpoints ensuring everyone was abiding with the alert level 4 restrictions.

They are urging people to cancel plans if they had booked to see friends or family for the holiday, or if they were travelling to a bach.

Permanent residents of holiday hotspots around the country are pleading with bach owners to stay at home this Easter and keep Covid-19 out of their communities.

Officers empowered under the current health notice and Health Act will be operating checkpoints on the roads, ensuring people are compliant and are travelling for essential purposes.

They will also be patrolling popular holiday spots and in communities.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster, told Morning Report people needed to stay safe by staying home.

"It's really important in this period. We've done so well as a country to get to where we have. We need to follow through. Now is not the time to be laxing off."

He said police would use discretion with checking people's details but warned it would be apparent if some where flouting rules and enforcement action would follow.

"It's normally pretty evident if people's home address is, for example, in Auckland and they're in Coromandel with a carload of holiday gear that they're probably not in the place they should be.

"I understand people's desire to get away, but it's just so important we don't do it. By doing it people will expose communities who may not be at risk to the risk with having this virus."

So far police have issued 263 warnings to people flouting rules and 16 prosecutions.

He said their first step was to educate, but if people continued to disobey the rules, they could be arrested.

"People are pretty well informed now what the requirements are and if people are flouting it, we will take enforcement action," he said.

The top officer discouraged communities to set-up their own roadblocks this weekend, but said police tried to work with any individuals who did, so to ensure these activities didn't prohibit legitimate road users.

"My message would be 'police have got this'. We are actively patrolling, pro-actively checking. It is not a time for vigilante action."

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