Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced New Zealand’s level 4 lockdown will end one week from today.
Ardern announced the decision to move out of level 4 at 11.59pm on Monday, April 27 during a press conference from the Beehive which started at 4pm.
From then New Zealand will be in alert level 3 for two weeks and would move down alert levels after that two week period “only if it is safe”.
Level 4 had originally been scheduled to lift on Thursday this week.
But Cabinet wanted to “lock in some gains” and give more certainty, Ardern said.
Waiting until next week would cost New Zealand two more business days, but ensured better health and economic wellbeing down the track, she said.
“Ultimately we have taken a balanced approach,” Ardern said.
Ardern said at every point along the way with making decisions the Government was based on both health and economic advice but NZ was in the fortunate position that those were both linked.
Lifting late on Monday – a public holiday because of Anzac Day – was also recommended by Bloomfield.
Any businesses needing to prepare to move into level 3 could be accessed, Ardern said, as could schools to prepare. April 28 will be a teachers’ only day and April 29 will be the first day of term.
On businesses accessing their premises, it wasn’t an invitation to open or trade, she said – just to prepare.
Testing will continue this week to ensure all demographics in the community were reached, Ardern said.
On whether the lockdown could be extended further, Ardern said she wasn’t expecting “any surprises” with the case numbers and they were confident there wasn’t community transmission.
Alert level 3 still has many restrictions and does not allow more social activity though allowing more commerce to re-open.
Ardern reminded the country of the principles of alert level 3:
- Stay home;
- Work and learn from home if you can;
- Make your business Covid-19 safe;
- Stay regional;
- Keep your bubble as small as possible;
- Wash your hands often with soap and cough into your elbow;
- If you’re sick, stay home and get advice from a GP and do that quickly.
So this Anzac weekend, stay home and stay with your bubble and reflect on the sacrifices of our forebears, Ardern said.
“It was a very, very different battle from the one we’re in now but the character of our country remains the same.”
Ardern started the press conference by thinking of those who’ve lost a loved one, or almost lost a loved one, to Covid-19.
“We cannot forget that every number is someone’s father, mother, relative or friend,” she said.
Ardern is being joined by director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield.
She said the country had stopped a “wave of devastation” thanks to New Zealanders.
“We have done what very few countries have been able to do.”
New Zealand had a transmission rate of 0.48% – one of the lowest in the world, she said.
Nearly every case is a result of overseas travel, an already confirmed case or a cluster.
Only eight cases can’t be traced to their source.
Random testing in communities had tested more than 1000 people and none had tested positive.
Bloomfield is sure there is no widespread community transmission, she said.
“We have broken the chain,” Ardern said.
Bloomfield said they would continue to test symptomatic people and “hunt out” community cases which might exist.
Random testing would also continue and would start testing more workplaces.
Dr Ayesha Veralls’ report will be released this afternoon after being considered by Cabinet.
Bloomfield said a number of her recommendations had been responded to and the Ministry would continue to respond to others.
Cabinet had been meeting since 10.30am to decide whether the lockdown will be lifted on Wednesday at 11.59pm.
Today there were nine new cases of Covid-19. There were also nine on Sunday.
Fourteen people are in hospital, including two in a critical condition, while 974 people have completely recovered from the deadly virus.
The death toll stands at 12.
Cabinet, a body of senior ministers, will make the decision based on four factors:
1) It’s reasonably certain there’s no community transmission
Targeted community testing has ramped up over the weekend with 400 people tested at supermarkets in Auckland’s Mangere and Henderson and all tests were confirmed positive today.
And tests of almost 650 people in Queenstown and sites in the Waikato last week were all negative.
Cabinet will base a lot of weight on Bloomfield’s opinion as to whether he’s confident about community transmission being under control.
2) That we have sufficient and rapid contact tracing
Bloomfield said yesterday New Zealand was within a week of achieving the “gold standard” – where 80 per cent of all close contacts could be traced within three days.
He said gold standard contact-tracing system was essential “to safely go down to level 3 and lower”.
3) That our self-isolation, quarantine and border measures are robust.
4) That there’s good capacity in the health system