Coronavirus: Police warn checkpoints, extra patrols will be in place to stop Easter lockdown getaways

If you are thinking of using the Easter weekend to nip away to your bach and get a change of lockdown scenery think again, police are warning.

As the country heads into the halfway point of its four-week lockdown period new Police Commissioner Andrew Coster is urging people not to get complacent.

He is reminding Kiwis that police 'absolutely" have the power to stop people heading to their holiday homes for the long weekend.

"Our message to people is stay home - we've put too much into this to compromise it by trying to get away for a holiday weekend," Coster told The AM Show on Wednesday. 

He said police will be out in "high visibility" with checkpoints planned for some areas.

"We will be looking to do that at both ends of some of these journeys so that if people are trying to leave the city or arrive at the beach we just need people to know now's not the time to lax off."

Wednesday marks day-14 of the nationwide lockdown ordered by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in late March. Ardern said the restrictions would last "at least" four weeks, though they could go on for longer if necessary. 

Coster said that police have taken a "pretty gentle approach" in dealing with rule breakers up to now, focusing on educating people rather than punishing those who don't comply. But after some initial confusion over what exactly is and isn't allowed during lockdown, he says all Kiwis are now expected to know the rules.

"People know what the rules are now, if we see people really deliberately flouting those to get away for a holiday weekend, now's just not the time to do it. I fully understand people's desire to get away - we'd all love to do it - but let's just get through this and make sure that we get the result that we've worked so hard for." 

Coronavirus: Police warn checkpoints, extra patrols will be in place to stop Easter lockdown getaways

On Tuesday, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said 263 people have been issued warnings for breaching lockdown rules, with 16 of them facing charges.

Coster said police had the power to interrogate and detain people if they were believed to be outside their house for an unauthorised reason.

The authority to enforce the rules comes under the Health Act, which Coster said granted police sufficient power to do their job.

"We've got no concerns that we are missing any powers. We have what we need, we have been using them."

In general Kiwis have been doing "an awesome job", Coster said, adding that police would continue to educate people who "genuinely didn't know" but would clamp down on those who are consciously flouting the rules and "putting others at risk by moving around the country".

"We are concerned coming into Easter as people perceive that we're getting some success that they feel like it's a time to relax - it definitely isn't."

So far there have been 1160 confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in New Zealand, with one death.

Globally, the virus has infected more than 1.4 million people and led to over 81,000 deaths.

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