Retired police are being approached to about potentially coming back to the force on a temporary basis to help as the national lockdown puts pressure on frontline responders.

The lockdown came into force at 11.59pm last night in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

It will last at least four weeks.

During that time New Zealanders cannot leave their home addresses unless it's absolutely essential - for example buying food, seeking medical treatment or exercising.

Police will be patrolling and speaking to people out of their homes about what they were doing.

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Officers have the power to enforce the lockdown if they see people flouting the rules.

The Government is also looking at measures to enforce quarantine on people who refuse to comply.

Bush said earlier this week that he expected to see a rise in some crime and a drop in other areas.

For example domestic violence was forecast to increase.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush and Director general of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield during the Government's lockdown taskforce media conference. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Police Commissioner Mike Bush and Director general of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield during the Government's lockdown taskforce media conference. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A source said police had "no idea" what the lockdown trends would be.

"We just don't know yet," they said.

The Herald has learned that people who have left the police are being asked to consider
coming back to help during the lockdown.

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A police spokesperson said the organisation had a pandemic contingency plan which had been updated recently.

"We continue to evolve this as we learn more about Covid-19," the spokesperson said.

"Police has a number of contingencies which we are planning for, including the impact of losing significant numbers of our workforce to the virus.

"There is a range of options for managing our workforce available to us including redistribution or redeployment of staff and a re-focusing of priorities.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush. Photo / Jason Oxenham
New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush. Photo / Jason Oxenham

"The systems approach allows for us to utilise other service organisations including Defence.

"In this uncharted time police will consider all possibilities for strengthening its workforce."

The source said former staff returning was one consideration.

"People are being asked if there's anyone they know that would come back," the source said.

"They won't be in uniform - but they will probably help with other stuff."

It is thought if the returning staff were needed they may be deployed to help with street patrolling, call centre work - particularly for the non-emergency 105 phone line - or
administrative duties.

They would not be cleared to work on the frontline as those officers had certain requirements such as a current physical competency test pass.

Commissioner Mike Bush said earlier today retired staff were an option.

"We're planning not to get to that stage, but we do have a few plans," he said.

In terms of crime trends during the pandemic - it was too early to say what was happening in the community or what could be expected.

"Our focus remains on maintaining public safety, security and public order," the police spokesperson said.

"It is now more important than ever, that we continue to deliver policing services in a calm, compassionate and confident way.

"Business continuity plans are in action across all police districts and ensure we can maintain our service delivery to the community.

"he public will notice an increased police presence and we will adapt and change how we police in response to this situation."