Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told New Zealanders on Wednesday to behave as if they have the coronavirus and cut off all physical contact outside their home when the country is headed for a month-long shutdown at midnight.
Ardern declared a state of national emergency as the number of cases of COVID-19, the disease associated with the coronavirus, increased by a record 50 cases to bring the national count to 205.
The government has imposed self-isolation on everyone, with all non-essential services, schools, and offices that will be closed for a month after midnight (1100 GMT).
“Starting at midnight tonight, we took refuge for four weeks to try to stop the virus, to break the chain,” Ardern told parliament.
Make no mistake, this will get worse before it gets better. We will have a delay and the cases will increase over the next week or so. Then we will begin to know how successful we have been. “
Ardern told parliament that the closure was triggered by early evidence of community transmission of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
At a press conference later in the day, Ardern said the models suggested that New Zealand could have several thousand COVID-19 cases before the numbers begin to drop.
“If you have any questions about what you can or cannot do, apply a simple principle: act as if you have COVID-19,” said Ardern.
“Every move you make is a risk to another person. This is how we should all think collectively. That is why the joy of physically visiting other family, children, grandchildren, friends, and neighbors is on hold. Because now we are all putting ourselves first. And that is what we as a nation do so well. ”
New Zealand, with around 5 million people, has fewer infections than many other countries, but the Ardern government wants to act quickly to stop the spread. He was one of the first to compel all travelers to self-isolation and to ban large gatherings.
All non-essential services, bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, swimming pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public will congregate during closure.