Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has extended lockdown for another five days.
New Zealand will remain at alert level four until Monday 27 April, after which it will move to alert level three for at least two weeks. The position will then be reviewed once again.
Speaking at today’s 4pm press conference, Ardern said that New Zealand has “stopped a wave of devastation” with its strict level four restrictions, and that going hard and early has given it the best chance of stamping out the virus.
She noted that New Zealand’s transmission rate was a small 0.48%, and that it has a relatively low proportion of serious cases and a low mortality rate. Existing cases are almost all linked to contact with overseas travel, and random community testing in Queenstown, Wellington, Auckland and Waikato has returned a negative result.
“The director general is confident that there is no widespread community transmission in New Zealand,” Ardern said.
“All of you have stopped the uncontrolled explosion of COVID-19 in New Zealand, and I couldn’t feel prouder of the start we have made together. But I also feel a huge responsibility to ensure that we do not lose any of the gains we have made either.”
“Cabinet wanted to make sure we lock in our gains, and give ourselves some additional certainty.”
Ardern says the extended lockdown will cost us just two more business days, but will mean a significantly smaller chance of having to go backwards and “yo-yo” between levels.
Businesses will be allowed to get ready to open, but they will need to stick to social distancing and their bubble.
Insurance has been classed as an essential service, and customer service and claims teams of all major insurers have been working remotely for the last month. Travel and customer-facing businesses would still face significant restrictions under level three, with a mass return to offices not likely to happen until New Zealand is at level one.
However, the decision reflects a “balanced approach” to not losing any gains, while also allowing more economic activity.
Ardern’s closing message to the country: “Stay strong, stay home, be kind. And let’s finish what we started.”