Northlanders are preparing for a massive disruption to their everyday life as the government has announced it will put country in lockdown from 11.59pm on Wednesday after the number of confirmed coronavirus nationwide cases topped 100.
There were 36 new Covid-19 cases in New Zealand as at 8am yesterday, taking the total to 102, which includes two in Northland.
None of the 36 new cases involve Northlanders.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern raised the country's coronavirus alert level to 3 and that will go up to level 4 from 11.59pm tomorrow as the government tries to stop the spread of Covid-19.
More publicly-visited places around Northland announced their closure, including Event Cinemas, Kensington Fitness, Whangārei Aquatic Centre, and playgrounds and community halls.
The provision of water, wastewater, stormwater, drought management, animal management, housing for the elderly and road maintenance would continue but other non-essential services such as libraries, public swimming pools and i-SITE information centres have closed around the region.
Level 3 restrictions mean all bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries and other places where people gather for occasions such as weddings and birthday celebrations should be closed from today.
When level 4 restrictions kick in, all New Zealanders not in essential services will be asked to stay home.
Public transport will only be open to those working in essential services, for medical reasons, or to move essential goods – including ferry services between the North and South Island.
Essential services will remain open, such as supermarkets, banks, GPs, pharmacies, service stations, couriers and other important frontline service providers.
Northland's councils have closed all customer-facing areas, including customer services, libraries and i-Sites, but will continue to provide essential services (including drinking water, wastewater, solid waste management, cemetery, roads and bridges).
All schools will close from today except those attended by the children of people working in essential services, so they wouldn't have to make emergency childcare arrangements.
The Northland District Health Board's community testing centre in Whangārei has been relocated to a larger site at Toll Stadium to better manage the flow of people through the triage and testing process.
Northland DHB medical officer of health Dr Catherine Jackson said most people who were unwell with Covid-19 would be mildly unwell and it was safe to wait until the next working day to be tested.
She said anyone who became increasingly unwell, either before or after they have been tested, should seek medical care as they normally would.
Statistics on how many people went through the testing stations on the first day last Friday were not available yesterday.
Given the high number of testing done each day, it may take up to five days for results to be made available.
The hospitality sector is particularly hard hit by the latest restrictions.
Suk Jai Thai Restaurant in Kensington has applied for government assistance to help pay its 14 staff and owner Charn Tiebtienrat said sales plummeted 40 per cent within a week.
"Our sales on Sunday, March 22, was around $4600 but that went down to $2600 last
Sunday and it gets worse every time new restrictions are put in place. We are weighing a number of options, including closing down until things improve," he said.
He said fortunately, there have been a lot of takeaways but that would be affected with tough new restrictions that came into force from yesterday.
Level 3 and four restrictions may also affect plans by the Whangārei Sikh Society to deliver groceries to people in self-isolation throughout Northland, free of charge.
The initiative is spearheaded by Sikh Aware New Zealand and free deliveries are being done in six centres around the country.
Those who need help are requested to order their groceries by 12pm then call 027 606 1984 to arrange delivery in Northland.
"It's our moral responsibility to do whatever we can in our power to serve humanity. It doesn't matter where in Northland you are. Just us a call and we'll strive to provide free, same-day delivery," society member Sartaj Sandhu said.
Schools will be able to put in place contingency plans such as learning programmes for students at home they've been working on since the Covid-19 outbreak.
Tauraroa Area School principal Grant Burns said he was initially in disbelief after yesterday's announcement by the government but then felt relief.
"We know where we stand now. We had been going day by day with real uncertainty and it's such a high-stakes situation. It's like something out of a novel or movie but the fact it's actually happening seems surreal."
Burns said the school has been working to set up online learning and had surveyed families to find out who had online access, which more than 90 per cent had.
"Teachers have been working to make sure there are programmes available for students over the next few weeks. We are lending laptop computers for families who want them and textbooks, which normally don't go home, are going home."
Burns said families were already keeping children home - yesterday 35 children were absent because their parents and/or caregivers had kept them home because of Covid-19.
"The bigger worry was staffing. We had some staff who had to stay away - even bus drivers. Finding relief teachers was becoming really really difficult because a lot of them
are retired teachers."
Whangārei mum Nikita Keith, who has kept her four children off school and daycare since March 9, was happy schools would close.
"I actually think it should have been done sooner to reduce risks, more so for parents who aren't in essential professions," she said. During this time Keith had only been leaving the house for essential trips. She said she hadn't found being in self-isolation too difficult.
"The children are going a little bit stir crazy... But I haven't found it too daunting," she said.
The Prime Minister said if community transmission took off in New Zealand, the number of cases would double every five days and inundate the health system and result in thousands of New Zealanders dying.
All rents would be frozen, and the Government's wage subsidy programme, announced last week with a $150,000 cap, would now be extended to all businesses so as many workers as possible would keep an income.
• NZ will be in coronavirus lockdown for at least the next four weeks
• Coronavirus alert level has moved up to 3 and to 4 within the next 24 hours
• Schools, childcare centres and universities will be closed from today
• All non-essential businesses or services must shut in the next 24 hours
• Kiwis should stay at home unless visiting an essential service such as medical appointments
• Finance Minister Grant Robertson has announced a new economic plan to help struggling companies and workers.