Coronavirus: Police describe first night of lockdown, drivers claiming no knowledge of rules

As New Zealand's coronavirus lockdown came into force, people continued to drive around, claiming to have no knowledge of the new rules, says Police Commissioner Mike Bush.

At 11:59pm on Wednesday night, New Zealand entered a state of nationwide lockdown, with people instructed to stay indoors as a means of limiting exposure to the infectious coronavirus COVID-19. Authorities have stressed people should only go out if it is absolutely necessary, such as to get food or medical treatment. 

While New Zealand is in lockdown, which is expected to be for about four weeks, police will ramp up their presence in the community, educating people about the new rules and stepping in if there are people flouting them. The Defence Force may also take to the streets if police need assistance in keeping the calm. 

Speaking to The AM Show on Thursday, Police Commissioner Mike Bush described what officers saw overnight.

"We were out and about last night. There were people driving around, flouting these rules, claiming that they had no knowledge about this. That is why we will go out and educate them. For those people, if they are seen again, and we do take their names, if they are seen again, there will be a consequence of those actions," he said.

Bush said police have the power to arrest and detain people "somewhere a little more uncomfortable to what they are used to" if they consistently break the rules. 

"We are going to be out there. We have really stepped up our presence in the community. We are out there to reassure people and deter people from doing anything they shouldn't be doing," he told The AM Show.

"We will be intervening, we will engage with people. If they don't comply, we will give them some pretty good advice, again, if they don't comply, they will definitely be warned. If it goes on, there will be consequences if people don't do the right thing.

"This is serious stuff. If people don't comply, others will die."

He said while people won't be arrested for simply walking down the street for some exercise, if Kiwis head to gatherings or to the beach to meet others they will be warned as they could be threatening other people's lives. 

While dealing with issues on the streets, police will also need to continue their normal duties. Officers are aware that with many people stuck inside together, there could be a rise in domestic violence.

There are 205 confirmed or probable cases of coronavirus COVID-19 in New Zealand. If people do leave their houses during the lockdown period to go to the supermarket or somewhere essential, they are reminded to keep at least two metres apart and stay with those they are isolating with.

On Wednesday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield warned that despite the lockdown protocols coming into place, we can expect to see an increase in cases for at least 10 days. This is because most people don't get tested until they have symptoms of the virus, which can take up to two weeks to emerge. It is possible that someone contracts the virus in the days leading up to the lockdown, who won't have symptoms until it is well underway.