Non-essential businesses that flout the lockdown rules and remain open will be fined and shut down immediately, authorities warn.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is sending the message to businesses everywhere that only firms considered to provide a necessity of life, for example, are an essential service as of 11.59pm on Wednesday.

Today's comments follow widespread confusion about what constitutes an "essential" service.

Cookie franchise CookieTime has also said it would remain open for business, saying it was an essential service in terms of food delivery to New Zealanders.

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MBIE deputy chief executive Paul Stocks spoke about the issue on Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking Breakfast show this morning:

"We're not doing a Level 4 lockdown because it's not important. We've got one chance to eradicate Covid-19," Stocks said.

Businesses and jobs that could open during the country's four-week lockdown will do so because they provide services for health, safety, welfare and essential infrastructure.

Up to 15 sectors of society have been identified as being essential services; including supermarkets, pharmacies and banks.

Self-service laundry facilities and dairies will also remain open - on a "one in, one out" basis and the 2m distance rule to be adhered to at all times.

Supermarkets are among essential services that will remain open during the lockdown period. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Supermarkets are among essential services that will remain open during the lockdown period. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Stocks confirmed that smaller shops - including fruit and vegetable store operators - would be closed during the month-long lockdown.

Butchers were also not considered an essential service and would be closing their doors after today too. The same goes for liquor stores.

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The Warehouse will shut its doors during the lockdown period - despite initial reports that it was to remain open because it was considered to be an essential service.

Stocks acknowledged, however, that some areas where supermarkets or shops were limited would be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

"If you are part of the supply chain...then yes, you are an essential service.

"We want to make sure everyone has access to food."

Mike Hosking talks to MBIE Deputy Chief Executive Paul Stocks to clarify the list of essential businesses that can remain open.

COOKIETIME REMAINS OPEN, DEEMS TO BE ESSENTIAL SERVICE

A message on the Cookie Time website tells customers it is still in business as an essential service. Photo / Supplied
A message on the Cookie Time website tells customers it is still in business as an essential service. Photo / Supplied

CookieTime has sent emails to customers letting them know that it would remain open during the lockdown period.

"Munchtime provides an essential service in terms of food delivery to New Zealanders and NZ retailers so our online store remains open for business - fully stocked with bulk buys/pantry fillers and our most popular grocery items," a notice on its website said.

The stance has been met with distaste among some people, however.

Farmers earlier had a notice on its website saying stores would remain open.

However, it has since been confirmed that all physical stores would be closed during the lockdown period, except for the online store.

No online purchases, however, would be delivered until the four-week lockdown ended.

Focus: Shoppers protect themselves with masks and gloves at Pakn'Save Paraparaumu. Video / Mark Mitchell

People are being encouraged to check in on the dedicated Covid-19 website for more information and an 0800 number is due to be set up for businesses to call.

However, officials yesterday said that if you are unsure that you are an essential business, then you probably are not one.

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