Police Commissioner Andrew Coster says his staff have turned a number of people around from checkpoints as motorists try to leave Auckland.

He told Newstalk ZB some people had been trying to visit friends and the "odd one" trying to get to their holidays homes.

He says they've turned around 30 to 40 vehicles.

Police closed State Highway 1 at Bombay when they began setting up checkpoints to prevent Aucklanders fleeing the city to dodge lockdown and long queues developed over the day.

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Coster says they started the checkpoints when the order came into force that enabled them to do so. That followed criticism from the Thames-Coromandel mayor saying checkpoints should have been in place earlier.

Coster says they've been clear that under level 2 lockdown there's no legal authority for police - or others - to establish checkpoints.

Coster says people are allowed to pass through Auckland in order to return to their normal place of residence.

Police have set up a checkpoint at Bombay and have shut down State Highway 1 to check motorists. Photo / Dean Purcell
Police have set up a checkpoint at Bombay and have shut down State Highway 1 to check motorists. Photo / Dean Purcell
The police diversion at Bombay. Photo / Dean Purcell
The police diversion at Bombay. Photo / Dean Purcell

The police presence at Bombay has also been bolstered by members of the Defence Force assisting with the checkpoint.

Defence Force staff in army uniforms are working alongside police at the Bombay checkpoint. Photo / Dean Purcell
Defence Force staff in army uniforms are working alongside police at the Bombay checkpoint. Photo / Dean Purcell

Epidemiologist Michael Baker is urging Aucklanders to stay put after last night's announcement that there were four active cases of Covid-19 as a result of community transmission.

Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie said she doesn't blame people for leaving, or wanting to leave, but she hopes that if they were at their bach they stayed in their bubble.

Police checkpoints were quickly set up in Lyon Rd near State Highway 2 soon after lockdown took effect at midday. Photo / Dean Purcell
Police checkpoints were quickly set up in Lyon Rd near State Highway 2 soon after lockdown took effect at midday. Photo / Dean Purcell

Images of traffic jams have been flooding social media and reports of some Auckland residents travelling hours to get out of the district.

Travellers look to board flights at Auckland's domestic airport today. Photo / Greg Bowker
Travellers look to board flights at Auckland's domestic airport today. Photo / Greg Bowker

Goudie said it wasn't up to her to tell people what to do, but with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing level 3 restrictions, people needed to follow her instructions.

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Professor Michael Baker says Aucklanders fleeing the district could make it harder to contain the virus. Photo / Supplied
Professor Michael Baker says Aucklanders fleeing the district could make it harder to contain the virus. Photo / Supplied

"With the Prime Minister saying stay at home, if you want to keep people safe, you should stay at home. No one knows where it's been in Auckland.

"If people do manage to escape Auckland, because I can't stop it, then I'm just hoping they stick to themselves, they stay in their bubble.

"Stay home, but if you do get here it's a bit late."

A police checkpoint in Lyon Rd, State Highway 2. Photo / Dean Purcell
A police checkpoint in Lyon Rd, State Highway 2. Photo / Dean Purcell

She said the Thames-Coromandel district was home to the highest number of over-65s in New Zealand, and an influx of Aucklanders could put them at risk.

"We don't want you bringing it with you, not to the Coromandel where we've got the highest over-65 population in the country.

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"If you do escape, stick to your own bubble and be really staunch about that.

"People are getting extremely fearful about the whole situation and for many people with underlying conditions it's a serious risk, so heed the Prime Minister's message."

Traffic was heavy 20 minutes before midday as motorists battled to get home in time for lockdown.
Traffic was heavy 20 minutes before midday as motorists battled to get home in time for lockdown.

Baker said he didn't want to see people moving outside of Auckland as that would only make it harder to stop the spread.

"We don't want people to be moving outside of Auckland at the moment because that can spread the virus and there could be a national outbreak.

"The advice would be to stay put at the moment.

"We don't want people suddenly going out of Auckland saying 'I'm just going to go to my holiday home for the next week or two', that's not going to be helpful at all."

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