A state of emergency has been declared in New Zealand as Northland survived another day without an increase to its positive Covid-19 case tally.
The declaration, made by the Minister for Civil Defence Peeni Henare at 12.21pm yesterday, granted Civil Defence director Sarah Stuart-Black special powers to combat the spread of Covid-19, including powers of requisition and closing roads, and stopping people from doing certain activities.
While in force, the State of National Emergency will allow the director and local controllers, as needed, to provide for the:
- conservation and supply of food, fuel and other essential supplies
- regulate land, water and air traffic
- to close roads and public places
- to evacuate any premises, including any public place
- and if necessary to exclude people or vehicles from any premises or place.
It is New Zealand's second-ever state of emergency declaration after one was implemented following the 6.3 magnitude earthquake in Christchurch on February 23, 2011.
The declaration came prior to the country entering "alert level four" at 11.59pm yesterday in its attempt to stop the spread of Covid-19.
In a briefing at Parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern emphasised a clear message - stay at home or people could die.
"Act like you have Covid-19, it will help guide your decisions," she said.
"Breaking the rules could kill someone close to you."
Ardern said as the lockdown took hold, police will move around the country and ask questions of people outside of their homes. Police would ask people about their activities with the power to enforce the lockdown's rules.
People without a valid reason to be outside could be reminded of their obligations, she said.
People simply getting fresh air should be able to without being told to go home by police, and some common sense was needed in their approach.
Ardern said people will want to get some fresh air, but any common space like a surface at a playground presented risk.
When asked about whether people could go hunting or fishing, Ardern said to stay home.
Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who is on the Government's lockdown taskforce, said Kiwis could expect to see a strong police presence on the street. It was also likely there would be some military presence.
Also announced yesterday was 50 new Covid-19 cases, taking the country's total to 205 confirmed or probable cases as at 9:30am yesterday. As was the case on Tuesday, most of yesterday's new cases were people from Auckland or Wellington. None were from Northland.
Northland had its first confirmed case of coronavirus on Thursday last week - a man in his 20s who returned home from overseas early last week.
The Northlander flew from Paris to Abu Dhabi on Etihad flight EY38, then on to Sydney on flight EY450, and the final leg of his journey to Auckland on Monday was on Virgin Australia flight V0141.
Northland's second case was a woman who had recently returned from Australia and tested positive. The Northlander, in her 40s, flew from Melbourne to Auckland on flight JQ217 on Sunday, March 15.
Northland's community-based testing centres opened on March 20 and as of 5pm Tuesday, a total of 235 swabs had been taken with an average of 93 people visiting the testing centres per day.
Northland had seven such centres across Whangārei, Kaipara, the Far North and the Mid North, the locations of which could be found on the Northland District Health Board (NDHB) website.
NDHB communications officer Paula Martin said anyone who suspected they might have Covid-19 could come to a testing centre, call Healthline (0800 611 116) or call their GP.
The centres were designed to test all people who had symptoms or had travelled and become unwell/developed symptoms. Symptoms included having a fever or at least one of the following symptoms - shortness of breath, cough or sore throat.
Martin said people visiting testing centres should wait in their car for a staff member to approach them. Test results were expected after five days.
Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai said she supported the Government's decision to declare a national emergency and echoed Ardern in her advice to Northlanders.
"Stay home, stay safe, save lives," Mai said.
"If we all abide by it, lives will be saved."
Mai, who would conduct all her civic duties from home during the lockdown, said she was pleased to see Northland had had no increase in positive Covid-19 cases and how many people had transitioned to working from home.
However, Mai said she had noticed real concern in the community, specifically from businesses and around mental health.
"There's a growing level of anxiety about that, but there's also a real sense that things that need to be under control, are under control, and we will get through this period and we will rebuild."
Mai said she was 100 per cent confident the Whangārei District Council's essential services would be executed adequately.
Mai encouraged any Northlander who may be apprehensive of an increased police or military presence on the streets to smile, wave and thank any law enforcement personnel to show support.