Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed New Zealand could move to alert level 1 next week, buoyed by 11 straight days of no new Covid cases.

Ardern said Cabinet had today discussed the alert level decision-making processes.

Ministers would fully review the alert levels next Monday, she said.

If there were no further cases in the coming days, New Zealand could be in a position to move to alert level 1 next week. More details on what alert level 1 would look like would come this week.

Advertisement

New Zealand should feel proud of its efforts, with today marking 20 days at alert level 2, Ardern said.

So far the tail or spike of Covid-19 hadn't eventuated and there was increasing optimism it wouldn't happen.

"Our strategy of going hard and early has paid off."

But authorities needed to see if more cases came through after relaxing restrictions to mass gatherings to 100 on Friday.

Lack of physical distancing at yesterday's marches

Ardern said it wasn't up to the Government to decide whether police should have enforced the level 2 distancing requirements at the Black Lives Matter protests in this country yesterday.

Cabinet did not decide to move to alert level 1 today because it was a "balanced decision" based on health and economic advice and the country had only relaxed the restrictions on mass gatherings last week, Ardern said.

She confirmed that Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters had expressed his thoughts on moving to alert level 1 both publicly and privately.

Thousands of Aucklanders marched down Queen St yesterday to protest against the killing of US man George Floyd. Photo / NZ Herald
Thousands of Aucklanders marched down Queen St yesterday to protest against the killing of US man George Floyd. Photo / NZ Herald

The Cabinet decision today to leave the decision on moving until next week was a consensus decision but Ardern said there was an alternative view presented.

Advertisement

Ardern said sliding backwards in alert levels would be the worst thing possible for the country.

Director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield had not changed his views on the 100-person limit for mass gatherings, Ardern said, despite not recommending that yesterday's protesters should self-isolate.

New Zealanders were "for the most part" experiencing a relatively normal life at the current restrictions, with the economy roughly down by 5 per cent, she said.

The 50+ Avatar film crew members who arrived in New Zealand on Sunday were now quarantined at a "Government-approved" hotel and paid for their own costs.

About 150 people had been granted permission to enter the country for economic reasons, Ardern said.

Trades training programme

Ardern was joined by Education Minister Chris Hipkins for the post-Cabinet press conference to give more details about the free trades training programme announced in the Budget.

Ardern said unfortunately the economic damage of the virus was something every country was experiencing but the Government could ensure no one was left behind.

The Targeted Training and Apprenticeships Fund was an "important part of the overall plan".

It would mean any form of apprenticeship would be free from July 1 this year, which should encourage businesses to take on apprentices.

Hipkins said many New Zealanders would be looking to retrain as a result of Covid-19.

The package was designed for all learners, not just school leavers, he said.

The initial areas would be refined next year when there was more understanding about how Covid-19 had impacted the labour market, Hipkins said.

Ardern earlier on NZ marchers

Earlier today Ardern had strengthened her criticism of the Black Lives Matter protests, saying "it was not right" and the rules were there for a reason.

"They have breached the rules. It was not right. New Zealanders have given up a lot and I need to keep asking the team of five million to stay together so we can reach the finish line. I understand the sentiment but I cannot condone the breaking of the rules."

READ MORE:
Covid 19 coronavirus: Zero new Covid-19 cases for 10 days in row
Covid 19 coronavirus: Town's anger over dead man's wrong Covid-19 diagnosis
Covid 19 coronavirus: NZ could be at level 1 by June 10
Covid-19 coronavirus: Social distancing forgotten in huge queues as Nido opens NZ's largest store

Ardern said the decision on whether the protest organisers should be prosecuted lay with police as the Government didn't intervene with enforcement.

She was asked why the Ministry of Health and the police didn't put out notices advising against the gatherings.

She said "we have all put out the message, don't gather - it is not a good idea".

Alert level 1

New Zealand was in a position to consider to moving to level 1 earlier than expected because of the success of the lockdown.

At alert level 1, the border restrictions would remain in place with intensive testing and physical distancing encouraged, but there's no limits on gatherings.

"Level 1 potentially means we keep our border restrictions, but life feels very, very normal otherwise."

Ardern said Cabinet considering the move to level 1 early wasn't a result of Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters' pressure, rather a result of the encouraging evidence.

Subscribe to Premium

Unconscious bias in the police

Police Minister Stuart Nash said he didn't think New Zealand police had a problem with systemic racism and referred to previous Police Commissioner Mike Bush's comments about unconscious bias.

In 2015, Bush said Māori over-representation in offender statistics could be partly explained by unconscious bias among officers.

In 2017, a programme was rolled out to address the unconscious bias.

At the time, Bush said officers didn't racially profile people but acknowledged unconscious bias might feel the same to the person who's on the receiving end.

On the Armed Response Trials (ART), Nash said he was against arming the police but said it was a decision for police as to whether they should be rolled out.

He was expecting a report on the recommendations from the trials to be presented to Commissioner Andrew Coster in mid-June.

Ardern said she'd always been "totally opposed" to the general arming of police.

And New Zealand had to "continually strive" to address issues of unconscious bias in its systems, she said.