New Zealand goes on Alert Level Two over Covid-19

New Zealand goes on Alert Level Two over Covid-19

Residents over 70 and with medical conditions advised stay at home
Venkat Raman
Auckland, March 21, 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressing the Nation from her office (Pool Picture)

New Zealand has gone into Alert Level Two in its bid to contain the rapidly increasing cases of coronavirus Covid-19, setting a number of regulatory measures in place throughout the country.

In her address to the Nation from her office in the Beehive in Wellington, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that Alert Level Two meant Reduce Contact.

“Alert Level Two is where the disease is contained but the risks are growing because we have more cases. This is when we move to reduce our contact with one another. We increase our border measures, and we cancel events. This is also the level where we ask people to work differently if they can, and cancel unnecessary travel,” she said.

Ms Ardern advised New Zealanders over 70 years of age and those with certain medical conditions to stay at home as much as they can to reduce risk of contact with the virus. She also asked workplaces to implement plans to reduce person-to-person contact, including work from home where possible and all New Zealanders to limit all non-essential domestic travel.

“I am asking everyone to support our older New Zealanders by doing things like keeping in contact with them and dropping off food or other supplies. I am also asking businesses and workplaces to play their part. Many workplaces already have plans for staff to work from home or to distance themselves in the workplace. We are now asking you to put those plans in place,” she said.

She said that the decision to move to Alert Level Two was taken on advise from health experts.

Ms Ardern explained the four levels of Alert and said that each of them may apply to the entire country, a particular region or a particular place depending on the seriousness of the Covid-19 virus.

She urged people to get all the advice and updated information from the government about the coronavirus disease from the dedicated website www.covid19.govt.nz

“This is a time when I know that people will want as much information as possible. It is also a time when there is plenty of mis-information,” Ms Ardern said.

Alert Levels and their meaning

Ms Ardern explained the meaning and extent of the four Alert Levels as under:

Alert Level One: COVID-19 is here, but contained. In this phase we prepare. The basics, like border measures, contact tracing, and cancelling mass gatherings are activated. You’ll see that this is where we have been when COVID first arrived in New Zealand.

Alert Level Two is where the disease is contained but the risks are growing because we have more cases. This is when we move to reduce our contact with one another. We increase our border measures, and we cancel events. This is also the level where we ask people to work differently if they can, and cancel unnecessary travel.

Alert Level Three is where the disease is increasingly difficult to contain. This is where we restrict our contact by stepping things up again. We close public venues and ask non-essential businesses to close.

Alert Level Four is where we have sustained transmission. This is where we eliminate contact with each other altogether. We keep essential services going but ask everyone to stay at home until COVID-19 is back under control.

Abundant food and essential supplies

Ms Ardern reiterated her earlier advise not to take to panic buying.

“There is no need for panic buying. Supermarkets, food production workers and other essential people will continue at their place of work at this Alert Level. It is also important to note that at every Alert Level, supermarkets around New Zealand will remain open. These measures are being taken in the national interest. We know people, business, and sports events will be impacted, but these are short-term disruptions for the overall health of our people and country,” she said.

Prime Minister’s Address

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressing the Nation from her office (Pool Picture)

Following is the full text of the Address to the Nation by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at 12 pm today from her office in Wellington:

Over the past few weeks, the world has changed. And it has changed very quickly. In February it would have seemed unimaginable to close New Zealand’s borders to the world, and now it has been an obvious step as we fight COVID-19.

This is because we are experiencing an unprecedented event – a global pandemic that in New Zealand, we have moved to fight by going hard, and going early.

I understand that all of this rapid change creates anxiety, and uncertainty. Especially when it means changing how we live. That’s why today I am going to set out for you as clearly as possible, what you can expect as we continue to fight the virus together.

The first really important thing to remember, is that the vast majority of people who will ever have COVID 19 will only experience mild to moderate symptoms. But there will be some who need more care.
That’s why we have to focus on one simple goal – to slow down Covid 19.

Slowing it down, means not having one big tidal wave of cases, but instead, smaller waves – groups of cases that we can manage properly as they arise. That means we reduce the impact on health, on jobs and on our economy. Some countries have successfully managed to do this –but it does mean we have to be ready to step up our action when we need to.

The Alert Levels

Here’s how we will know what to do and when.

Alert Level One is where COVID-19 is here, but contained. In this phase we prepare. The basics, like border measures, contact tracing, and cancelling mass gatherings are activated. You’ll see that this is where we have been when COVID first arrived in New Zealand.

Alert Level Two is where the disease is contained but the risks are growing because we have more cases. This is when we move to reduce our contact with one another. We increase our border measures, and we cancel events. This is also the level where we ask people to work differently if they can, and cancel unnecessary travel.

Alert Level Three is where the disease is increasingly difficult to contain. This is where we restrict our contact by stepping things up again. We close public venues and ask non-essential businesses to close.

Alert Level Four is where we have sustained transmission. This is where we eliminate contact with each other altogether. We keep essential services going but ask everyone to stay at home until COVID-19 is back under control.

Warning Systems

Already in New Zealand, we have warning systems to try and get ahead of problems and hazards. We all know and recognise signs that tell us when we have fire risk Or when to reduce our water use.
Today I am announcing an alert system for COVID-19. That alert system can apply to the whole country, but sometimes, it may only apply to certain towns or cities.

There are four levels to the alert system. At each level there are things we need you to do, to keep you safe. And there are things the government will do too.

It is important to note that at every Alert Level supermarkets and essential services, like access to pharmaceuticals will continue. Shop normally. If we do that, our supermarkets will have time to restock their shelves.

We will use this alert system every time we update our cases, so you’ll know if the status in your area has gone up, or down, or stayed the same. And what you’ll need to do.

Today I am confirming that New Zealand is at Alert Level two.

That means the risk of community transmission is growing, and so to stay ahead and reduce the chances of the wave growing, we need to step things up.

We already have many of the measures for level two in place. But there are some that are new.

What is required from people

Here are the things that we need from you:

Today we are asking people over 70 years of age, or people who have compromised immunity or have underlying respiratory conditions to stay at home as much as they can.

That means we need friends, family and neighbours to support our older New Zealanders and people who may be in this group by doing simple things like keeping in contact and dropping off food or other supplies. And when you do, make sure you are not sick, that you are using good handwashing practices, and keeping your distance.

We also need everyone to start working differently. Many offices have plans for workers to work from home. Others have staggered meal breaks or shift based working. We are now asking you to implement these plans.

Health and Emergency services continue

We know not everyone can do this. We need and will continue to have health and emergency professionals, transport and delivery staff, supermarket and food production workers, and other essential people continuing on at their place of work. And there are some sectors where work from home is impossible. There are steps these workplaces should take all the same, like additional cleaning, and physical distancing as much as possible.

And finally, we are asking that you limit your movement around the country. This will help us track and contain any spread of COVID-19. That means cutting non-essential domestic travel.
Every unnecessary movement gives COVID-19 a chance to spread.

About schools closures

For those of you who are parents or caregivers, you will have questions about schools and education facilities. At Alert Level two, schools will be closed if there is a case that effects a school, as we have been doing to date. That may change if we move into higher Alert Levels. Sending children home at this stage though, doesn’t necessarily reduce transmission in the community, but I can assure you we are constantly monitoring these settings to keep children safe. As a mum, I can assure you that is my key consideration.

Finally, this is a time when I know people will want as much information as possible. It’s also a time when there is plenty of mis-information. All the advice from the government about COVID-19 and how it affects you is available at www.covid19.govt.nz including more detailed guidance on this announcement.

Huge disruption and uncertainty

Till then, I know this current situations is causing huge disruption and uncertainty. And right now I cannot tell you when that will end. This alert system is designed to help us through that – so please do stay tuned as we share daily updates – especially as Alert Levels can move from one level to the next in a short space of time, as we have seen elsewhere in the world.

For now, I ask that New Zealand does what we do so well. We are a country that is creative, practical, and community minded. We may not have experienced anything like this in our lifetimes, but we know how to rally and we know how to look after one another, and right now what could be more important than that. So thank you for all that you’re about to do.

Please be strong, be kind, and unite against COVID-19.

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