New Zealand’s Covid-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown will extend to 11.59pm Monday April 27, the Prime Minister announced today, with the country to stay at Alert Level 3 for two weeks before a review.
Jacinda Ardern said the country took on the challenge "of staring down Covid-19", "going hard and fast" to tackle the virus, resulting in stamping it out.
"Ultimately, we have taken a balanced approach," she said.
"We are currently in lockdown and are staying there for another week. From Tuesday we will go to Level 3 for at least two weeks. From there we will move if we can and if we are ready, and only if we are ready and only when we are ready," she said.
"The effort of our team of five million has broken the chain of transmission and taken a quantum leap forward in our goal to eliminate the virus."
She said Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield supported and recommend the decision.
Ms Ardern said the extension would "lock in gains" to give more certainty around the elimination of the virus.
"Elimination doesn't mean zero cases, it means zero tolerance for cases."
"Waiting to move to alert levels next week costs us two more business days, but gives us much greater longer term health and economic returns down the track. It means we are less likely to go backwards."
"Please, stay strong, stay home, be kind, and let's finish what we started," Ms Ardern said.
Midnight on April 22 was the earliest that Alert Level 4 could be lifted.
The Ministry of Health today reported nine new cases of Covid-19 , bringing the total of confirmed and probable cases in New Zealand to 1440. Twelve people have died from Covid-19.
Of the total cases, 974 people have recovered.
National's Simon Bridges criticised the decision, saying the Government had not "done enough and isn't ready by its own standards and rhetoric".
"New Zealand is being held back because the Government has not used this time to ensure best practice of testing and tracing and the availability of PPE hasn’t been at the standard it should have been.
"New Zealanders can be proud of the sacrifices they have made during this difficult time," Mr Bridges said.
"The Government must now move as fast as it can to sort out the issues with tracing, testing and PPE so we can get our country moving again."
Professor Shaun Hendy who is leading a team modelling the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus, told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning the country would be able to contain the virus under Alert Level 3, but not eliminate it.
The Prime Minister announced the rules around Alert Level 3 last week, labelling it the "waiting or recovery room" to assess Covid-19 before moving to Level 2.
Ms Ardern said that at Level 3, "there are slightly more opportunities for you to come into contact with people outside your bubble".
It also included a partial reopening of businesses, food delivery, drive throughs, and click and collect at cafes beginning, some schools reopening for the children of essential workers and travel restrictions moving from local to regional.
"Our new line of defence when we reach Level 3 is common sense, following the rules and trust in one another,” Ms Ardern said at the time.
The Prime Minister announced on March 23 that the country would be entering Alert Level 4 lockdown two days later, at midnight of Wednesday, March 25 - for a minimum of four weeks.
Level 4 is put in place with a risk of sustained level of virus transmission. Contact between people is largely eliminated, the public urged to stay at home. Essential services will remain in place.
The Government released a detailed list of what was allowed at each level.
For Level 2, it included physical distancing of one metre outside the home, gatherings of up to 100 people indoors and 500 outdoors allowed while maintaining physical distancing and contact tracing requirements and sport is allowed if conditions on gatherings are met, physical distancing is followed and travel is local.
Most businesses can open, schools and early childhood centres open, but people at high risk encouraged to stay home.