Coronavirus: Business as usual for courts in NZ, as the UK moves to adjourn trials

Courts are continuing to operate as usual despite increased concerns about the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said officials had met to discuss the issues but at the moment it was business as usual.

The situation here is in contrast to the UK, where the country's Judicial Office announced on Wednesday trials expected to take more than three days would not be going ahead for the time being.

Longer trials set to begin before the end of April would be adjourned, the office said.

Officials in New Zealand said they were weighing up options if things got worse here.

According to a statement released by New Zealand's Chief Justice Helen Winkelmann, a meeting had been held with heads of all court benches and senior Ministry of Justice officials to discuss how to ensure court proceedings could go ahead while also keeping people safe.

"The ministry is also undertaking a range of scenario planning exercises," Winkelmann said. 

Whilst the ministry has the ultimate say over whether courts stay open, it said it's guided by advice from health experts.

"As are other Government agencies, we continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health on the COVID-19 situation to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of our people, the Judiciary and all court users," said Carl Crafar, the Ministry of Justice's chief operating officer.

"We are meeting regularly with the Judiciary. We will consult and inform all stakeholders to help us plan for how essential court business and justice services might best continue in the event of local or widespread outbreaks of COVID-19.

"We will advise of any impacts or changes to court operations as the situation develops and changes."