Coronavirus: New Zealand health workers clash over petition calling for Level 4 alert now

New Zealand health workers are clashing over a petition started by a Wellington urgent care physician which calls for a mandatory nationwide lockdown.

Over 3000 people have signed a petition to Jacinda Ardern started by Dr Kelvin Ward, who says New Zealand needs to go to level 4 alert now to prevent the overrun of our health system and "countless unnecessary deaths".

However New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) calls the number of medical professionals who have signed "absolutely disappointing" - and warns the petition's "very likely" to cause panic.

Dr Ward says we need to "stamp out the virus" - or "allow the horrors like those seen in Italy and the US to happen here".

"All it takes is for one contact to potentially spread the virus widely in a few weeks. Many patients only show minor symptoms but they can transmit this disease to the more vulnerable causing unnecessary harm and death," he told Newshub.

"The question is, do we take strong measures now for about a month and contain the virus or do we do it indefinitely after it's largely too late."

His petition calls for four actions to be urgently implemented:

  1. Quarantine (not self-isolation) of COVID-19 positive patients
  2. Extensive testing and contact tracing
  3. Self-isolation of all asymptomatic contacts
  4. Mandatory social lockdown

"These actions will be painful for New Zealand, but nothing compared to what we would endure if we don't act now to make our collective voice heard," he says on the petition.

"The window of opportunity is rapidly closing to prevent COVID-19's exponential growth, which will overrun of our health care system, causing countless unnecessary deaths. If that happens, our generation will forever regret our inaction."

An anaesthetic technician who signed gave his reason and urged others to follow.

"Will be a part of the frontline when the surge of critical patients inevitably present to our high dependency and intensive care units," he wrote.

"We must act now to prevent our small healthcare system from being massively overwhelmed."

However NZNO associate professional services manager Hilary Graham-Smith says we don't need to move to a higher level.

She says we should be guided by the Director-General of Health and the Ministry of Health instead.

"If it [the petition] unsettles people and they think the right decisions aren't being made then yes we will have a state of panic," Graham-Smith says.

"If we all start running off deciding something different we'll pretty soon end up in a state of chaos."

Graham-Smith says it's "absolutely disappointing" to see so many medical professionals signing the petition.

"I think we should be guided by the Director-General and the Ministry of Health in making these decisions. They have all of the latest up-to-date information," she says.

"I don't think the Ministry has let us down so far, the Government hasn't let us down so far and I think that they will make the right decisions at the right time and we just need to trust that."