Many grandparents are about to drastically step up the time they spend caring for their grandkids as New Zealand goes into a full lockdown to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced schools and ECEs will shut for at least four weeks and most people must stay home.

That means grandparents who raise their grandkids are about to be around those kids 24-7, while others will be babysitting full-time for parents working in essential services.

It's raised concerns that the group of people most vulnerable to the virus are likely to be relied on more than ever - and it's going to be a strain.


What the lockdown in New Zealand means for parents with shared custody
What Covid-19 alert levels 3 and 4 mean for you and your family
36 new cases today, hospitals now restricting visitors
NZ's level 4 lockdown starts 11.59pm on Wednesday

Age Concern Auckland chief executive Kevin Lamb said while many older people are quite happy to look after grandkids regularly, some find it very difficult.

"It can be a big stress on their physical and emotional wellbeing," Lamb said.

He recognised there were some key workers who would have no choice but to leave kids with their grandparents.

"They need to make sure the [elderly] have as much support and help as possible - don't [assume] that they are simply going to be okay doing it. We talk, we ask what we can do to make it easier for them and not to be too much of a burden."

Grandparents needed some respite and time to recover, he said.

"We do urge everybody not to simply see this as a good opportunity, a good resource to get someone else to look after their children."

Kate Bundle, chief executive of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, said she had been fielding many calls from grandparents worried about risking their health by sending children to school.


"We've got members with chronic lung conditions, major underlying heart issues and other age-related conditions, as well as caring for special needs children with compromised immune systems, asthma and other conditions."

She was relieved to hear schools would shut down - but now worried about grandparents who would be looking after kids full-time for a month or more.

"School holidays are hard enough as it is and now there aren't going to be school holiday programmes, if they were ever able to access them in the first place."

Boredom was a big issue. Technology would let kids keep in touch with friends and provide other entertainment but not all grandparents had good internet access or computers.

Many also lacked internet banking or credit cards and with panic buying clogging supermarkets, as well as click and collect facing a backlog, she worried they would struggle to get their shopping done.

Bundle wants the Government to support these people, and said providing internet and devices for children was a great start.

Family and neighbours could also help by dropping off supplies at a safe distance and making sure the elderly were in touch with support services.

"We need to make sure we're all looking out for our really vulnerable people. We can do this - as long as we are kind and think about helping each other and staying safe."

Keeping the grandkids - and yourself - sane during lockdown

"Try to keep things different and fresh so that you're keeping your oxygen levels up," Bundle says. "Staying inside for days on end is not helpful - try to get some sunlight for Vitamin D.

"Take a deep breath and try not to be too anxious - we need to remember to take each day as it comes."

Other tips include:

*Have a routine but it doesn't need to be rigid
*Take breaks - whether from screen time or school work
*Get out in the garden or go for a walk to get some fresh air
*Get some exercise - try looking online for a class you can do together to change it up
*Have a time each day to play board games - or teach the kids card games like 500
*If you have boxes of old photos to sort, do it together - there are apps that can help you put together a family tree
*Do some baking together