From midnight tonight life as we know it in New Zealand will change. The vast majority of us will be expected to stay in our homes for the next four weeks, going out only for a walk to the park or to run some essential errands - like getting groceries or visiting a pharmacy.

Here's everything you need to know as we move into Alert level 4 for the first time in our history and what you can do to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

How many people have Covid-19?

The numbers are rising daily with the Ministry of Health yesterday announcing 40 new cases. That brings the total number of confirmed and probable cases to 155. Of those people, 12 have already recovered and the Prime Minister expects that number to keep increasing. Six people are in hospital but none of them requires treatment in ICU or high dependency units. Most are recovering at home in self-isolation.

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Who is getting sick?

So far the vast majority of cases are adults. There has only been one confirmed case in a child and six teens. A further three teens are highly likely to have it too. The child was related to an adult who had the virus. A woman in her 80s is the eldest person. Both genders are getting sick and they are in various parts of the country. The majority of people have travelled from overseas or are relatives of someone who has.

How many people are being tested?

It takes about 48 hours to get results after a swab is taken. So far there have been 8300 swabs carried out, 900 of which were tested in laboratories on Monday.

How quickly Is the virus spreading through the community?

There have been four confirmed cases of community transmission so far, three in Auckland and one in the Wairarapa. The key to keeping this number low is self-isolation - that means staying at home and not mixing with other people. The virus can stay on a surface for up to 72 hours so people are being asked to stay away from places like playgrounds if they do go out for a walk so they reduce the risk of picking it up from a surface.

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What level are we at today?

Today we remain at level 3 which means all bars, restaurants, cafes, pools, museums, libraries and other places where people are likely to gather are to close. Gatherings like weddings and birthdays should be cancelled. Schools are also closed to all children unless their parents work in emergency services. Essential services, like supermarkets, remain open. Tonight we move into level 4.

When does nationwide self-isolation begin?

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At 11.59pm all New Zealanders not working in essential services will have to self-isolate at home to prevent community transmission of the virus getting out of hand. That includes all children. This will remain in place for at least four weeks.

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Can I have friends or family around to visit around during this time?

People need to isolate from as many people as possible. The Prime Minister has described self-isolation as being in a bubble. For most people the only other people in your bubble are the ones who live with you at home. For some people on their own, there might be one or two other key people they rely on. For separated families trying to co-parent that might mean the two families being in the bubble if they are in the same city. The key is to only have contact with those few people in your bubble - and everyone in the bubble has the same limitations. If one person in the bubble has contact with someone outside of the bubble they risk bringing the virus into a safe area and infecting everyone else in it.

Can I go outside during self-isolation?

Yes, but people are being asked to avoid places where there are large groups of other people unless they are going to somewhere like the supermarket or a pharmacy. If they are going to the supermarket they should keep a 2m distance from others. Going for a walk to a nearby park is fine but don't go to the playground and try not to touch too many things. Always make sure you wash your hands frequently throughout the day, especially after being outside or near other people.

People are being urged to stay away from places like playgrounds during the self-isolaton period as the virus can stay on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours. Photo / File
People are being urged to stay away from places like playgrounds during the self-isolaton period as the virus can stay on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours. Photo / File

Will anything remain open after today?

. That includes things like supermarkets, pharmacies hospitals, care facilities, banking services, service stations and couriers. There is a detailed list on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's website.

Will there be any public transport if I do need to go out?

Yes but services will be reduced. In Auckland, Auckland Transport will be running free but reduced services on trains, buses and ferries to enable essential workers to get where they need to go. Public transport services to hospitals will also continue.

What will happen if I don't self-isolate?

Compliance will be enforced by the police and NZ Defence Force. People can expect to see a strong presence on the streets and some military presence as well. The Government is looking at measures to enforce a quarantine on people who refuse to self-isolate.

What happens if I am in another part of the country and can't get home before 11.59pm?

Domestic passenger services, particularly ferries, have been inundated with people trying to get home before midnight so the deadline has now been extended. People have until midnight Friday to get home on a domestic flight, train or the Cook Strait ferry.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website