Coronavirus: Petone cigarette factory Imperial Tobacco open despite COVID-19 lockdown

A Lower Hutt cigarette factory remains open despite the Government's coronavirus lockdown rules coming into effect overnight.

Imperial Tobacco in Petone was operating on Thursday, even though all non-essential businesses were told to close for four weeks from 11:59pm on Wednesday.

But Imperial Tobacco says it won't close the factory because the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has allowed it to remain open.

"MBIE has approved the Imperial factory in Petone to continue operating during the COVID-19 lockdown under conditions to ensure continuity of supply of 'fast moving consumer goods'," an Imperial Brands Australasia spokesperson told Newshub.

"Imperial can supply the demand safely. The number of factory staff has been reduced and [we] are working to a production layout and shift format that maintains physical distance between them."

Newshub has approached MBIE for comment.

The temporary closure of non-essential businesses comes as the Government urgently attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

Already there are 283 cases of coronavirus throughout the country, and that is expected to increase further in the coming days.

In criteria set out by MBIE, an essential service is defined as "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".

It is not clear whether Imperial Tobacco fits this description.

The 'essential service' rule enforced during the coronavirus lockdown period has caused widespread confusion for businesses around New Zealand.

Earlier in the week, The Warehouse Group and several bakeries said they would be open for business before reneging and announcing they would instead be closed.