Coastguard urges boaties to stay away from water during lockdown

Water lovers are being urged to stay away from the ocean while they self-isolate. 

As of 11:59pm on Wednesday, all non-essential businesses in the country will have to close and all Kiwis required to go into self-isolation for four weeks, in a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

The order comes as New Zealand's alert level rises to 4 - the highest level - with community transmission of the virus now confirmed.

Although people will be allowed to leave their homes in order to go to the supermarket or take a walk around the block, experts say it is imperative that everyone stays at least two metres apart when out in public.

Coastguard chief executive Callum Gillespie says although many may look to self-isolate in nature, such a move could end up putting others at risk. 

"Going fishing is many people's perfect idea of self-isolation, isn't it? But the question I'd be asking is: will I find myself in a situation where I need to ask others to help me?" Gillespie told Newshub. 

He said if a boatie gets into trouble out on the water then volunteers have to leave self-isolation, potentially putting themselves and their families at risk.

"If we're asked to go out in the water, of course, that means that our volunteers have to leave the safety of their home, they have to get together as a crew," he said.

"Please don't put yourself or others at risk. Please don't put our medical facilities or our volunteers under any more strain than they already will be."

Search and Rescue says people should also avoid tramping, hiking and swimming.

On Tuesday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that even going to the playground with children is out of the question, as the virus could be left on equipment there even if no one else is around.

People were, however, encouraged to go for walks around the block, making sure to stay well away from any others doing the same.

"You can drive locally to go to your super to get food but again we ask you to maintain your physical distance," Ardern said.

"Other than that we ask people to stay at home."

The economic fallout of COVID-19 here has already been crippling for many businesses, and that impact will only get worse as the lockdown comes into effect. But experts say if people don't take the lockdown seriously then the drastic measure could be in vain.

It could also mean that the initial four-week isolation period could be extended.

There are 155 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand so far. Although the vast majority of those have been linked with overseas travel, four cases have not been and are presumed to be caused by community transmission within the country.