As many of you may already be aware, New Zealand is currently at alert 3, preparing to move to alert 4, by 11.59pm Wednesday night 25 March 2020. The COVID-19 website has been updated with all the information you need to know about what to expect after we have moved up an alert.
In short, we are going to lockdown for four weeks and we should all stay at home unless you are an essential business or essential worker, performing an essential service.
A national emergency has been declared to ensure the Government has all the powers it needs to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce its impact. At some point tonight you should be receiving an emergency mobile alert.
Parliament will be shutting down today and a special COVID-19 Select Committee has been established to ensure the right questions are being asked and best decisions are made in the interests of all New Zealanders.
Essential business and services
One of the most frequently asked questions by people contacting my electorate offices is what is deemed 'essential services". In short, they are businesses that are absolutely essential to ensure the necessities of life. It includes organisations that are a critical part of the supply chain for essential services, but they must do so in a way that is safe.
Other essential businesses include supermarkets and dairies, pharmacies, essential banking services and medical services like doctors. These businesses will remain operating but will be doing so under strict health protocols, including observing strict physical distancing rules for customers and staff. Doctors will require you to call first before visiting.
Other questions include whether food delivery services can continue. The Government is clear it requires every restaurant, café and bar to close all aspects of their operation, including delivery. This restriction also applies to other food delivery services like Uber Eats that pre-cook their food, for example.
Primary industries, the people who work in them including farmers and growers and those who supply them, are also deemed essential services. MPI has released more information about what those working in the agriculture and horticultural sectors need to know. MPI has set up a registration system for businesses intending to continue to operate during the level 4 lockdown.
Primary sector businesses can also contact MPI at 0800 00 83 33 or firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
Welfare and social services providers
The Government has also announced further business finance support details. The package includes a 6 month principal and interest payment holiday for mortgage holders and SME customers whose incomes have been affected by the economic disruption from COVID-19.
If you are an employee, unless you are an employee in essential business, you must stay at home. Employees working in essential businesses will continue to work, but will put in place alternative ways of working to keep employees safe, including shift-based working, staggered meal breaks, flexible leave arrangements and physical distancing.
If you have lost your job or can't work at the moment because of COVID-19, this welfare factsheet contains useful information on how you can get help from a variety of government agencies including financial and accommodation assistance.
Need more information on Covid19? Please go to covid19.govt.nz - this website has everything you need to know about COVID-19. If you’re not sure who to contact for help, call the free government helpline on 0800 779 997 (8am–1am, 7 days a week), but please read the website first before calling the helpline.
Got symptoms? Call your GP before you visit. Or call Healthline on 0800 358 5453.
I will continue to be available for any queries you may have and can't find answers for using the covid.govt.nz website or through any of the other contact details I provided above.
My team and I are staying safe and working from home and we are committed to supporting you through this time. A lot of people are getting in touch, so we will respond as promptly as we can.
If we all do our bit and stay at home, follow the rules, we can get through the next four weeks. I want to reassure you that I am here for you and I'm making sure that you are informed. I am really grateful to see how well we as a community are pulling together, to identify issues as they arise and find local solutions.
I know many of you are worried about what will happen at the end of the lockdown period. I urge you to focus on this next 4 week - self-isolation. As communities and as a country we can focus on recovery later, our focus must now be on keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe.
Please take the self-isolation deadly seriously.