Dozens of Wellington commuters were packed into a city-bound train this morning, with many forced to stand less than half a metre from others despite the Government's plea for Kiwis to practice social distancing.
One regular commuter told the Herald he boarded the Hutt Valley Line train bound for Wellington's CBD at 7.20am from Pomare Station.
However, to his shock he said passengers were being squeezed into two carriages.
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The man, who did not wish to be named, said packing passengers into just two carriages during rush hour was "insane" and a risk to public safety as the nation prepares for a lockdown to fight Covid-19.
"Most of the people are really concerned about the pandemic because the Government is saying you have to keep a distance of one or two metres," he said.
"We don't know if someone on the train had the virus. We don't know that the person sitting next to me doesn't have the virus.
"They should be concerned about keeping the public safe. They were squeezing people into two carriages."
The man estimated there could have been more than 150 people in both carriages, while colleagues of his had said similar scenarios were playing out on other Wellington trains this morning.
MetLink general manager Scott Gallacher said in a statement: "Throughout this COVID-19 alert situation our focus has been the health of our staff and passengers and implementing the Government's guidelines as quickly as possible."
He said support teams have been working around the clock to make major changes to the rail network's rosters, timetables, cleaning, maintenance and standard operating arrangements.
"Metlink has also put measures in place to protect more vulnerable staff such as those over the age of 70. These rapid changes have meant that some services have not been operating at their usual size," Gallacher said.
"Metlink has been sharing and publicising the Government's messaging about physical distancing in every way we can, given short notice. As a public transport provider it is not our responsibility to police this, our passengers need to take personal responsibility and also follow this direction from the Government."
Gallacher said he was surprised by the volume of passengers on a few early morning services given the announcement New Zealand was to move to level 4 alert.
"If passengers are not able to board or travel on a service while still practicing the physical distancing rules we suggest they wait for the following service.
"We are putting various measures in place to protect our rail crew who are critical to continue running train services. Without them we are not able to run services."
Gallacher said an area has now been taped off around the doors at the first and last door of each train to clarify the distancing rule.
"We are also making PA announcements to reinforce this messaging."
The commuter said he had made a formal complaint to MetLink.
"So many other people were really concerned about this," he said. "For their staff safety they're not even checking tickets, so the same safety should be given to the public."
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterdaythat New Zealand is now at level 3 on the Covid-19 alert system with level 4 - the highest alert - to follow at 11.59pm on Wednesday.
Schools, childcare centres and universities will be closed, while all non-essential businesses or services must also shut by the deadline. Kiwis should stay at home unless visiting an essential service.
Ardern said the strict measures will save tens of thousands of Kiwi lives.