Tonight, at 11.59pm, New Zealand kicks into Covid-19 alert level 4 - the biggest weapon we possess to prevent the coronavirus sweeping through the population and taking many, many lives.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been crystal clear on the seriousness of the situation: The disease is not contained and there is a risk of widespread outbreaks.
• Covid 19 coronavirus: Front-line health workers and other medical staff want alert level 4 now
• Covid-19 coronavirus: What will alert level 4 mean for New Zealand?
• Coronavirus: Four Auckland schools linked to Covid-19 in one day
• Covid-19 coronavirus: What the lockdown means for you and how it will be enforced
From tonight, schools and non-essential services will be closed. There has been discussion about which services are, or aren't exempt. No matter the decision, we need to halt as much contact with each other as possible.
Yes, many of us will miss what some believe to be basic rights; to visit family; to dine out; to celebrate milestones with friends; convenience shop at end-of-season sales. But these are not inalienable human rights. And this temporary loss pales in significance to the potential grief of the pernicious virus linking its way into communities of vulnerable people.
This period of level 4 comes with conditions. It is "at least" four weeks. That more than implies - it clearly signals - it could be longer. Some communities may need more time to break free of the contagion. Be committed for four weeks, but be emotionally ready for more.
Another possibility is that this "lockdown" may not work. It is our best chance, but chances do not always come off. We now know that one careless move can breach the cordon. The more we all isolate, the better. But brace yourself to be told the coronavirus has escaped again.
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It's vital, too, that the Herald keeps providing essential information. So we've marshalled resources to ensure continued news of the virus and updates on what we need to help look after ourselves, our families and loved ones. As we said yesterday, we value your support - and, in return, vow to be the trusted source of news and information, as we have been since 1863.
The self-isolation rules about crossing borders and lack of enforcement may be weak links in the stay-at-home strategy. Other countries have the equivalent of a $200 spot fine for breaking quarantine. But how to enforce isolation without boots on the ground? Our nation, which prides itself on fairness and resourcefulness, should not need the threat of penalty or arrest to do the right thing.
Ardern says we need to be strong and kind. Support our neighbours and leave on the shelves for others what we do not need.
The "eliminate" strategy will be managed by a leadership team of Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management Sarah Stuart-Black, Commissioner of Police Mike Bush and Dr Peter Crabtree. It's now time to back them.
We must stay at home. Wash our hands often, particularly before and after we have had to go out through necessity. Assume we are carrying the virus and keep ourselves to ourselves. This is our chance, New Zealand. Let's take it.