New Zealand Declares National Emergency, Begins 4-Week Lockdown

March 25, 2020 Updated: March 25, 2020

New Zealand on Wednesday declared a state of national emergency and will implement a nationwide lockdown for four weeks after 50 more cases of CCP virus were confirmed, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 205.

The Minister for Civil Defence Peeni Henare announced the State of National Emergency following Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s issuing of an Epidemic Notice on Tuesday.

Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare
Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare speaks during question time at Parliament on Dec. 11, 2019 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.

New Zealand will go into an extreme lockdown at 11.59 p.m. this evening ahead of its move to a level 4 alert—the highest possible—for the CCP virus pandemic, in an effort to slow the spread of the disease. New Zealanders returning from overseas will now also be screened and quarantined for 14 days in approved facilities such as hotels if they do not have anywhere to self-isolate in the city they arrive in. Those returning New Zealanders who fail to self-isolate will be quarantined and fined by police.

“From midnight tonight, we bunker down for four weeks to try and stop the virus in its tracks, to break the chain,” Ardern said. “Make no mistake, this will get worse before it gets better. We will have a lag and cases will increase for the next week or so. Then we’ll begin to know how successful we have been.”

Ardern said the lockdown was triggered by early evidence of community transmission of COVID-19, before urging New Zealanders to “act like you have COVID-19,” and cut all physical contact outside their household.

“Every move you then make is a risk to someone else. That is how we must all collectively think. That’s why the joy of physically visiting other family, children, grandchildren, friends, neighbours is on hold. Because we’re all now putting each other first. And that is what we as a nation do so well.”

All non-essential services, offices, bars, restaurants, cafes, gyms, cinemas, pools, museums, libraries, playgrounds and any other place where the public congregate will be closed for a month as of tonight, however, supermarkets, doctors, pharmacies, service stations and access to essential banking services will still be available.

Schools will also be closed from tomorrow except to the children of essential workers such as doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, police, Ardern said, adding that there will be “others on that list.”

Ardern warned the restrictions will be strictly enforced and the Director and local controllers will have the power to close down roads and public places and exclude people or vehicles from any premises or place if necessary.

“Failure of anyone to play their part in coming days will put the lives of others at risk, and there will be no tolerance for that. We do not expect to use the full extent of these measures but, as with everything we have done in response to COVID-19, we plan, we prepare, we have in place everything we need to get through,” Ardern said before urging New Zealanders to “stay home, break the chain.”

The government has announced billions of dollars in support for small businesses, workers and families, and promised more in the coming days. On Wednesday, it announced a six-month freeze on residential rent increases and increased protection from having tenancies terminated.

New Zealand has a population of about five million people but has so far experienced a lower infection rate than many other countries and no deaths. Its close neighbour Australia has so far confirmed 2,317 cases of the virus while 8 deaths are attributed to the disease.

Reuters contributed to this report.