Coronavirus: Your questions answered about the COVID-19 lockdown

Publish Date
Tuesday, 24 March 2020, 1:34PM
Getty Images

Getty Images

VISIT THE GOVERNMENT'S DEDICATED COVID-19 WEBSITE FOR ANY FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE RESPONSE TO THE PANDEMIC

The country is now in lockdown. What does that mean? We've got the answers to your questions.

The Government announced Monday that the country will progress to alert level 4, which means people need to stay in their homes.

The only reasons people can go out is it they need to do a supermarket and/or pharmaceutical run, works for an essential business or do outdoor activities like gardening or going for a walk in their local area.

The Prime Minister had a simple message for all Kiwis at her final press conference this afternoon before the lockdown - "act like you have Covid-19" and stay home.

The latest information on cases is that there are 50 new cases of COVID-19. There were 205 cases of confirmed and probable cases, and Director-General of Health Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said the daily tally would now include probable cases. There are also three new cases. 

The probable cases had returned a negative result, but their history and symptoms showed they had Covid-19, and they were treated the same as if they had returned a positive result.

Meanwhile 22 patients had recovered.

As the country goes into lockdown, people are still uncertain. Many have come to the NZ Herald with questions. Here are the answers to some commonly asked questions.

• Am I allowed outside?

Yes, Ardern said today she understands the need for fresh air but has urged people to "stay home" as much as possible. Stay in your local area.

Do not stop to chat with others. If you see someone outside your "bubble" - the people you are self-isolating with - apply social distancing.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the stage four lockdown on Monday afternoon. Photo / Getty Images

Photo / Getty Images

 

• What will police be doing?

Police will move around the country and ask questions of people outside of their homes.

People without a valid reason to be outside can be reminded of their obligations, Ardern said.

People just getting fresh air should be able to without being told to go home by police, and some common sense is needed in their approach.

• Can the kids go on the playground?

No. Ardern said today any common space like a surface at a playground presented risk.

• What about hunting and fishing?

No. When asked about fishing and hunting, Ardern said to stay home.

"Act like you have Covid-19. It will help guide your decisions."

• Can I use my car?

"You only go out in your vehicle if you need to go and get essential food supplies, essential medical supplies or medical treatment. Otherwise, please stay at home," police commissioner Mike Bush said.

• Can I see my family and friends during the lockdown?

From 11.59pm "everyone must stay at home unless they are working in essential services", Government Controller John Ombler said during yesterday's press conference.

He said that meant no socialising with people outside their households.

• What if I live alone?

Ardern said if people live alone, they can have contact with one person outside of their home, but limit it to that interaction.

She suggested a "buddy system" that involves someone who lives alone teaming up with another person living alone in their community. Those people can agree to only see each other and no one else through the lockdown period.

Those designated helpers cannot be people who have compromised immunity.

• Am I an essential business worker?

The Government has put up a list of essential businesses, which is changing over time.

Employees should have been notified by now if they work for an essential business.

Companies who are unsure if their business comes under the list, an 0800 number will be available on the Government's Covid-19 website.

• What about shared custody?

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield has said children in shared custody arrangements can go between parents' households as long as they live within the same community.

This means that, for example, if a child spends time with a parent in Auckland and a parent in Christchurch, it is likely that travel restrictions will see that child spending the lockdown period with one of the parents. This is to minimise the risk of Covid-19 spreading.

However, if both parents live in the same city or town, then care arrangements should be able to continue as normal, as both households will be taking all the safety measures related to self-isolation.

• Can I buy and order groceries?

Grocery stores are essential services and will remain open during the lockdown but maintaining distance is still important while shopping.

Ardern has urged people to shop normally and food will still be available during the lockdown in their local areas.

Any entity involved in the supply, delivery, distribution and sale of food, beverage and other key consumer goods essential for maintaining the wellbeing of people.

• Will my local dairy and bakery be open?

Dairies and corner stores are to remain open with a "one-in one-out" policy.

The Government has not clarified if bakeries come under essential businesses.

• Will fast food delivery be available?

No - fast food is not included in the essential business list. This includes fast food delivery and Uber Eats delivery.

Food preparation is a particular area of risk which is why takeaways were closing, as while people collecting the food might not make contact, those in the kitchen would be.

• What about meal kit deliveries?

Meal kit delivery companies like My Food Bag and HelloFresh will continue to run as normal during the lockdown.

Kevin Bowler, chief executive of My Food Bag, said he was seeking assurances on the matter, but was confident the service fell under the umbrella of essential services.

• Are liquor stores open?

Liquor stores are closed across the country, unless within a Licensing Trust Area who have to use a"one-in one-out" policy.

• Can I visit the pharmacy, doctors, hospitals?

Yes, health facilities are also included in the essential business list along with hospitals, primary care clinics, medical laboratories, care facilities (eg rest homes).

If people need to see a doctor or other medical professional they MUST phone first.

Most consultations will happen over the phone (or by videoconference) to stop any risk of the disease spreading by person-to-person contact.

If a face-to-face meeting is required, their doctor or other medical professional will organise this with them.

If they cannot get through and are severely unwell, for example having trouble breathing, contact emergency services (dial 111).

• Can I use public transport and normal transport

The Government have asked people to limit their movement around the country to help contain Covid-19.

Airplanes, ferries, and public transport including trains and buses will not generally be available after midnight Wednesday.

Public transport will only be available for those working in essential services, for medical reasons, and to get to the supermarket.

Ferry services, road and rail will still be available for the transport of essential goods.

Driving in private vehicles is allowed.

Taxis and Ubers are still available to use as long as customers sit in the back seat.

• What about international air travel?

People have been advised not to go to the airport unless they have a ticket. If people do not have a ticket they need to contact a travel agent or airline directly.

Kiwis overseas may need to stay where they are as flights home dry up, Ardern said.

Germany was chartering flights to New Zealand to fly Germans home, but Ardern said New Zealanders were scattered all around the world.

"We took proactive steps to send a message to New Zealanders around when they needed to return home, and now that window is closing."

Border enforcement is stepping up, Ardern said, so that all returning New Zealanders will be screened.

Up to 10,000 Kiwis could come home by the end of the month, and some of them posed a health risk.

"If they are symptomatic, they will be tested and they will be put in isolation in an approved facility."

Asymptomatic people without the means to self-isolate will also be put in an approved facility, as would those who did not have a suitable way to stay isolated while traveling from the airport to their home city.

Recent arrivals with suitable self-isolation plans will be checked on by police in the days that follow, and they will be fined and quarantined if they fail to self-isolate properly.

Approved isolation facilities will be hotels, mainly, and the Government has already looked at hotels near airports to be used.

The new requirements would be in place at 2am today, but Ardern said there were still details being worked out, including how the Government would pay for the use of approved facilities.

She had spoken to her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison about the 200,000 Kiwis living in Australia but are ineligible for welfare in Australia, and any New Zealander wanting to return to New Zealand would be looked after.

"Right now it's not just an issue of fairness, but an issue of public health as well." That was why she would continue to push the case for the rights of New Zealanders in Australia, she said.

Visitors and tourists can still use international air services to travel home. If they are unable to secure a ticket, then they need to contact their country's embassy.

The Government had supported Air NZ to keep their major international flights open for longer.

• What about domestic air travel?

People needing to take domestic flights, trains and Cook Strait ferries to get home before the Covid-19 lockdown can do so until midnight on Friday.

After that, the Government will be moving to air travel only applying to the transport of people undertaking essential services and the transport of freight.

Visitors and tourists can use domestic air travel to proceed to an international airport.

• Is my recycling and rubbish still going to be collected?

Most councils have advisories on their websites about which services they're still taking.

All are still collecting rubbish but some aren't collecting recycling - where a council is not taking away recyclables the advice is to stockpile your cans, plastic and cardboard as this kind of waste doesn't go off or start to smell like general waste.

• Will mechanics be open?

Some mechanics are expected to shut down, but the Government said that any entity providing services to keep vehicles operational for essential work purposes (eg vehicle testing, mechanics, tyre services) will remain open.

• Will service stations be open?

Yes - they are an essential service.

• Will The Warehouse be open?

Ardern said people shouldn't expect to be able to go to their local Warehouse.

The Government has confirmed The Warehouse is not an an essential service.

• Who can look after my kids if I am an essential worker?

A child of an essential worker who can't stay home could have an identified buddy in their self-isolated group to take care of the child.

Options are being looked at for childcare, but older people - including grandparents - and those with compromised immunity were not suitable people to look after kids.

Police vetting would help ensure childcare services would be appropriate, and there were many ECE workers who could step into nanny roles.

The Government has agreed to fund home-based childcare for children of essential workers who can't arrange their own care during the coronavirus lockdown.

• If my pet gets sick, can I go to the vet?

Veterinarians are considered an essential service.

As well as any entity whose closure would jeopardise the maintenance of animal health or welfare standards (including the short-term survival of a species).

• Will I still get mail?

Yes. NZ Post will continue to operate throughout the lockdown period, as it is considered an essential service. Post and courier deliveries via NZ Post will still happen.

• Will laundromats be open?

Self-service laundries can stay open, but people will need to stand two metres apart at all times.

• Will hardware stores be open?

Bunnings, Placemakers, Mitre 10 and other retailers essential to the supply chain for building and construction can stay open to trade customers for essential purposes only.

• Will there still be builders working?

It depends. Construction workers will still work on what is deemed essential or critical. For example, work that needs to happen in order to maintain human health or safety will still carry on.

• Can I finish my house renovation?

In theory, yes, provided you are doing it on your own or with the people you are self-isolating with. However you might find yourself short of supplies.

• What if something breaks in my home?

Electricians, telecommunication workers, plumbers, internet providers are all classed as essential services and will still work on critical services. This means that if you have a leak or your power goes out, you will still be able to call someone to help you.

• Will I still be able to online shop (other than groceries)?

Couriers and NZ Post will continue to operate, however they will only be delivering essential items.

The list of essential items that can be purchased online during the lockdown is as follows: food, beverages, health and sanitation products, and toiletries.

Is there anywhere in New Zealand without any Covid-19 cases?

Yes. Ardern told The AM Show neither the West Coast or East Coast had so far reported any cases. She noted both areas were quite isolated.

Has anyone died of Covid-19 yet in New Zealand?

No. However, officials had doubled the country's capacity in its intensive and high dependency units to 500 beds.

People are swamping supermarkets - how much have they spent?

Good question. Paymark figures released today show spending at food and liquor stores, including supermarkets, skyrocketed compared to the same Monday last year.

Spending was up 157 per cent, reaching $111 million.

That was nearly as high as Christmas Eve shoppers in 2019 when $117 million was spent.

Pharmacy spending was up 122 per cent yesterday on the year before, however accommodation providers and restaurants, cafes and bars were not fearing as well, going down 59 per cent and 44 per cent respectively.

For the week ending Sunday, total spending through Paymark was $1.3 billion, up 7.5 per cent. The biggest percentages again coming from food and liquor shops (+51.8 per cent) and pharmacies (+81.0 per cent).

-nzherald.co.nz