A coronavirus lockdown has turned Auckland's usually jammed motorways into ghost highways.

The number of kilometres driven on the city's motorways each day fell by just under a quarter when compared to the same date in 2019.

The impact of coronavirus was thought to be the major contributor, with March's average of 12.4 million kilometres falling closer to 9 million last Wednesday.

March and November were typically the busiest months for travelling on Auckland's motorway network, NZ Transport Agency data revealed.


The start of March saw an increase in kilometres driven when compared to 2019, however, the numbers had decreased significantly since.

"The increases shown in the first week of March are to be expected as year-on-year growth," NZTA spokesman Darryl Walker said last week.

"But the third week of the month shows a significant change, and that's likely to accelerate once Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown takes effect over the weekend and next week."

In the third week when the numbers started dropping, on Wednesday, March 18 there were only 12 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand.

The country recorded its first virus death yesterday, West Coast woman Anne Guenole, and the total number of cases was 514.

Distances travelled started dropping from March 18, the NZTA data showed, with the biggest hits coming in the fourth week of the month (last week).

On March 23, when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country would lock down two days later, the distance travelled was around 11 million.

On March 25, the numbers had fallen 23.6 per cent from the same date a year prior to just above 9 million kilometres travelled.


A day later, Kiwis were forced to remain at home with only those deemed essential workers or people who had legitimate reasons to be out were allowed.

Photos from reporters and photographers around the country highlighted the lack of commotion in New Zealand on Thursday morning.

In central Auckland, there were very few cars and a couple of rubbish trucks and buses transporting essential workers.

In Ellerslie, the stretch of Auckland's Southern Motorway which is usually teeming with traffic on weekday mornings was dead.

Dozens of trucks passed by about 6.30am, carrying mail, petrol and foodstuffs.

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But by 9am the motorway traffic had thinned out, with only a few essential workers and rubbish trucks passing by.

Just how long New Zealand remains under complete lockdown depended on whether more cases of the potentially deadly virus increased.

It was also dependent on people sticking to the rules and staying indoors, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told Mike Hosking.

"If we've still got isolated outbreaks that we can manage quite easily, then that may allow us to get down to level 3," he said.

"If we're still seeing new cases popping up around the place, then that would give us a sense that we may need to stay in level 4 somewhat longer."

Mike Hosking talks to Chief executive of the New Zealand Ministry of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield on how the lockdown may have affected the spread of Covid-19.