Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern says NZ can't 'take our foot off the pedal' with COVID-19 restrictions

"We are 'over the peak', but that is not the same thing as being 'out of the woods',"
Jacinda Ardern says.
"We are 'over the peak', but that is not the same thing as being 'out of the woods'," Jacinda Ardern says. Photo credit: Getty

Now is not the time to ease off the restrictions of alert level 4, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says, despite a decreasing number of new daily COVID-19 cases making some New Zealanders relax.

Since April 5, when New Zealand recorded its highest daily case tally of 89, the new numbers have continued to fall with each of the last three days recording less than 20 new cases.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed that New Zealand is "over the peak" - but Ardern says this is no reason to loosen up restrictions.

"As we see, [we have] the beginnings of success in terms of getting the virus under control and numbers coming down sitting alongside an increase in the number of deaths," she said. 

"Over the weekend and today, I have seen some commentary that is not unexpected that reflects our success today in stamping out the virus as reason enough to take our foot off the pedal. It is not. 

"As the Director-General said, we are successfully "over the peak" - but that is not the same thing as being out of the woods."

Ardern says New Zealanders seem to be growing more relaxed, with 169 police prosecutions so far for Kiwis trying to flout the lockdown rules. She reminded Kiwis not to "squander the good work that everyone has put in over the last 20 days".

The increasing number of deaths is still raising caution, with Ardern saying this week is likely to be the "most challenging week we face in lockdown".

She added the four deaths recorded on Tuesday were "a sad and sobering reminder that we need to stay the course".

Next Monday, the Prime Minister and the COVID-19 committee will decide whether to extend New Zealand's nationwide lockdown.

In order to move out of alert level 4 with confidence, Ardern says the Government needs to have possible cases of community transmission under control.

That decision will determine whether the country will decrease to alert level 3, or potentially maintain the lockdown only in certain regions.

Speaking to The AM Show on Tuesday, Ardern ruled out moving more than one level down on the alert system.

Details on what alert level 3 will look like will be released on Thursday, but it is expected to still be restrictive, with only slightly more activity allowed.

According to the alert level system framework released last month, level 3 would continue to see travel in areas with clusters or community transmission limited, affected educational facilities closed, mass gatherings banned, public venues shut, and people required to find alternative ways of working. Some non-essential businesses would also remain shut.