All new jury trials in New Zealand will be suspended for two months.

People affected by the suspension would be contacted by the registry of the relevant court, Chief Justice Dame Helen Winkelmann said.

Jury trials currently underway were not affected by the decision to suspend ones in the future.

Meanwhile, all New Zealand Parole Board hearings would be held by video-link from tomorrow onwards.

Advertisement

According to the Chief Medical Officer, hearings could go ahead so long as courthouses practise prudent hygiene precautions.

While the advice had not changed, Winkelmann believed maintaining the high level of precaution in the current environment was unrealistic for jury trials.

Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann. Photo / Supplied
Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann. Photo / Supplied

"There is a special onus on the courts to protect the health of jurors who are performing an important civic duty," she said.

"The process of empanelling juries often involves bringing large numbers of people together in relatively confined spaces.

"Once empanelled jurors are inevitably spending significant periods of time in relatively close contact."

The decision to suspend the trials was made following consultation with Heads of Bench and the Secretary for Justice.

Anyone feeling unwell was told to stay away from court and measures were being taken to ensure courtrooms were not overcrowded.

Enhanced cleaning of courtrooms was being done and the Ministry of Justice was also reviewing what additional steps could be taken.

Advertisement

The precautionary measure was put in place to keep all involved safe, chairperson Sir Ron Young said in a statement.

"Partly this is about limiting the travel required of the Board's members and administrative staff," Young said.

"But it is also a proactive, preventative step to support the Department of Corrections to keep coronavirus out of prisons."

Eight new cases of coronavirus were confirmed today, taking the nationwide total to 20.

The patients had recently returned to New Zealand on flights from Europe, Sydney, the Gold Coast and London, the Ministry of Health reported.

The eight new cases include four in Auckland, two in Waikato and one in Christchurch and Invercargill.

Earlier today, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters told the 80,000-odd Kiwis travelling overseas to get home now - before it's too late.

READ MORE:
• Coronavirus: Time is running out for industry airlines
• Coronavirus: Avoiding Italy's fate and how we cope
• Coronavirus: Supermarkets call for calm as shoppers abuse staff
• Coronavirus: NZ's ICU capacity well behind comparable nations

"If you're travelling it's very likely you could be shut off very shortly," Peters said. "If you can get home, come home now."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asked every Kiwi who returned to New Zealand in the past fortnight to self-isolate.

Regardless of if they came into the country before strict travel restrictions were enforced, Ardern pleaded them to be proactive.

The Prime Minister also told Kiwis they should be prepared for scenarios such as working from home and to cancel all non-essential travel.

"This is not a time for panic. It is a time for preparation. I ask everyone that they think about that for them and their family," Ardern said this afternoon.

The Government's plan to contain the spread of the virus appeared to be working but Kiwis needed to be prepared for a wider outbreak, she said.

"Think about Covid-19 in the same way you do for civil defence emergencies. Prepare a plan for you and your family."

That included thinking about how to get through a period of self-isolation, including how to access all the resources you might need.