Coronavirus: What you're waking up to with New Zealand in lockdown

As of 11:59pm on Wednesday, New Zealand's alert level was officially raised to 4 - meaning the country is now in lockdown.

The move comes after the Ministry of Health announced there are now 205 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19, with four of those presumed to come from community transmission. 

In line with the heightened situation, the Government declared a nationwide state of emergency on Wednesday, giving authorities more powers to be used "when necessary".

"The state of national emergency declaration allows Civil Defence emergency management controllers to take the necessary steps, if they need to, to ensure the conservation and supply of food, fuel, and other essential supplies, regulate land, water, and air traffic, close roads and public places, evacuate premises including any public place, and, if necessary, to exclude people or vehicles from any premises or place," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Wednesday.

The lockdown comes as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide is at more than 440,000 and the death toll at over 19,000.

Over the next few weeks, life around the country is set to change considerably for everyone here.

So what does the new situation mean for Kiwis waking up on Thursday?

Businesses closed

Although essential services - such as supermarkets, pharmacies and petrol stations - will remain open, all non-essential businesses have been ordered closed. Even essential businesses must implement alternative ways of working, ensuring staff have a physical distance of two metres from each other.

Supermarket staff will now wear masks and perspex screens have been installed at the checkout.

Compulsory self-isolation

All Kiwis must now self-isolate.

"Where you stay tonight is where you must stay from now on," an emergency alert sent to cellphones told New Zealanders on Wednesday evening. 

"You must only be in physical contact with those you are living with."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that while it is permitted to buy groceries and go for a walk around the block, any other non-essential activities are not allowed.

"Staying at home is essential. It's a simple but highly effective way to contain the virus... and will help give our health system a fighting chance," Ardern said. 

Families were also being encouraged to send just one person out to go to the supermarket to further reduce the risk.

Visiting playgrounds with children is also banned, due to the risk of the virus spreading via playground surfaces.

Coronavirus: What you're waking up to with New Zealand in lockdown
Photo credit: Newshub.

All schools closed

From Thursday onwards, there will be no schools open.

The school term has been brought forward and where possible, education centres will provide learning online.

Increased police presence

There will be an increased police presence during the lockdown. They will be asking questions of people who are out and about and if someone can't explain why they are not at home there could be repercussions.

"They [police] will remind them of their obligations and if they believe they need to, they can take other enforcement actions," Ardern said.

"We're being as clear as we can on the guidance. It may take a bit of time for people to really, truly understand the expectations, but police will be working with them to help them with that, as we will."

The country will stay at level 4 for at least four weeks.