At 11:59 p.m local time, New Zealand’s alert Level 4 will go into force, placing “the most significant” restrictions on its people “in our modern history,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
A national state of emergency has been declared, schools will close, people have been told they must stay at home and non-essential businesses will shut.
The order comes as cases in the country rose by 30% on Wednesday. But with just 205 coronavirus cases reported in total and no deaths, New Zealand is responding much faster than other countries around the world.
In her statement announcing the measures, Arden acknowledged no other country has moved as fast to restrict daily life, but the trigger was early evidence of community transmission in New Zealand.
“Unlike so many other gravely inundated countries, we have a window of opportunity to stay home, break the chain of transmission, and save lives. It’s that simple,” she said.
Flattening the curve: Ardern said the country needed to get “ahead of any potential over-run of our hospitals, and ahead of any deaths on New Zealand soil.”
Break the chain: “You may not be at work, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a job. Your job is to save lives, and you can do that by staying home, and breaking the chain,” she said.
Act like you have Covid-19: “Every move you then make is a risk to someone else. That is how we must all collectively think,” Ardern said.
New Zealand’s swift action marks a drastic departure from some countries, such as the UK and US, which have been criticized for not acting quickly enough to stop outbreaks from accelerating in their own nations.