Northland's leaders have called for calm after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a new alert system to fight Covid-19.
In a statement to the nation today, Ardern outlined the four-stage alert system which would be used to categorise the state of New Zealand's battle with the coronavirus.
• 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.
Ardern said New Zealand was currently at alert level two and that moving between alert systems could happen at daily notice.
Ardern encouraged people over the age of 70, those with compromised immunity and those with respiratory issues to stay at home as much as possible. She also implored people to be selective with their travel plans and emphasised panic-buying was not necessary.
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Earlier today, Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield announced there were 13 new positive cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, taking the country's tally to 52.
The cases had been found in Auckland, Waikato, Taranaki, Manawatū, Taupō, Wellington, and Nelson. As two of the 14 cases were not linked to overseas travel, Bloomfield said he could not rule out the risk of community transmission.
None of the new cases were from Northland, meaning the region's tally of confirmed positive Covid-19 cases still stood at one - a male in his 20s who flew Paris to Abu Dhabi (Etihad EY38) on Saturday, March 14 to Sydney (Etihad EY450) to Auckland (Virgin Australia VA0141) on Monday, March 16.
Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said it was pleasing to see no more Northland cases but accepted it might not be long before more cases were confirmed.
"[No new Northland cases] is great but we know that will change so we all have to do everything we can to slow the spread," she said.
Mai said she had witnessed many people panic-buying in Whangārei which she advised against.
"It has been distressing to see people panic-buying and making essentials for everyone limited, and it's stressful to think older people are struggling to find their essentials."
Mai accepted this time would be a very anxious one for Northland's elderly population and encouraged younger people in the community to stay connected with elderly family, friends and neighbours.
While she would miss her usual social circles, Mai said she would be taking every precaution in her own life to stop the spread.
"Personally, I'm going to miss the contact of family and friends, but I'm shutting down as much I can and making most of my garden."
Mai confirmed the Whangārei District Council was looking at different ways to ensure the area's essential services continued during the pandemic.
Far North mayor John Carter said Ardern's announcement was the right step and communities needed to be vigilant.
"Obviously, the steps to make sure we distance ourselves from others reduces risk of transmission," he said.
"It is important that people don't panic, that they are sensible in how they approach the issue and provided we all work together, we as a region and as a nation will get through this with minimal casualties."
Carter confirmed Far North District Council staff would be reducing contact as much as possible while still ensuring essential services continued.
Carter, 69, said his attendance at any upcoming functions was under advisement.
He also confirmed some members of the Far North community, who had not been responsible in their social distancing measures, had been referred to the police.
With Northland still gripped in drought, Carter expected the Covid-19 pandemic to bring the Far North community tighter together as he had seen from communities affected by the drought.
There are 528,000 people aged 70-plus in New Zealand, according to the NZ Herald. From data supplied by the Kaipara District Council, the percentage of residents 60 years of age or older in the Kaipara district was consistently higher than the national average.
In response to Ardern's announcement, Kaipara mayor Jason Smith confirmed there would be an emergency meeting of the Kaipara District Council on Monday morning in Dargaville to resolve its emergency period decision-making powers.
Smith said people needed to prepare for changing times and uncertainty, but believed Northlanders would cope.
"People of Northland are really resilient and the systems are in place with the Northland District Health Board leading the response across the region for what we are headed into," he said.
Smith said he had noticed an increased level of anxiety in the Kaipara community, but had not seen extensive panic-buying.
Regarding Kaipara's significant elderly population, Smith encouraged people to keep in touch with their older community members.
"If everyone were to think of five other people over 65 and put them on a ringing list just for the sake of ringing them, that's the kind of Northland community stuff that we have always done.
"We have communities where people look out for each other and that kindness is really important, so let's keep the kind in Kaipara.
Smith said he was confident the council could reduce contact between staff and still ensure essential services remained operational.