Coronavirus: A breakdown of how life as we knew it changed as New Zealand responded to COVID-19

This time a year ago, none of us had ever heard of COVID-19 - the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which had just begun circulating in Wuhan, China.

Newshub's first article on the only story that mattered in 2020 ran on January 6, when just 59 cases had been reported - and no deaths.

Since then, we've run close to 6000 items on the story that changed everything. 

Here's (almost) everything that happened this year in our world-renowned handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

November 2019

The first people start falling ill, but at the time no one knows it's being caused by a virus previously unknown to science. Tests would later show there were possible cases in China and Italy.


December 31, 2019: The World Health Organization is advised of an outbreak of a pneumonia-like illness in Wuhan, China. 

The outbreak was first detected in Wuhan, China. Photo credit: Getty

January 2020

January 6: Newshub first reports on the "mystery virus", when there had been just 59 cases reported.

January 9: The virus is found to be a coronavirus similar to that which caused the SARS epidemic.

January 11: A Chinese scientist uploads the virus' genome to the internet, giving vaccinologists an early start. Within days, US company Moderna has a candidate vaccine that, much later, would show 94 percent efficacy in trials. The first death is reported.

January 15: The virus is detected outside of mainland China for the first time, in Thailand. 

January 21: Otago University epidemiologist Michael Baker says NZ should start surveillance at the borders to keep the virus out and start planning for an outbreak. China had reported only four deaths at this stage.

January 23: A non-scientific poll by The AM Show finds more than a third of viewers are not worried about the virus.

January 24: New Zealand sets up a COVID-19 monitoring team to keep an eye on the outbreak. High-profile doctor Lance O'Sullivan plays down the outbreak, saying there is "more chance of getting measles in Auckland than I do of getting coronavirus in Shenzhen". 

January 25: Chinese Kiwis warn authorities here there is panic back home, fearing our education and health systems aren't ready for an influx of potential virus-carrying students. An eight-year-old computer game, Plague Inc, rockets to the top of app store charts around the world. Australia reports its first case.

January 26: Newshub reports on Harvard epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding's dire warning of a  "thermonuclear" level pandemic, based on the speed of the virus' early spread. 

Emergency hospital being constructed in China, January.
Emergency hospital being constructed in China, January. Photo credit: Getty

January 27: Health staff in New Zealand begin checking on passengers arriving from China. Jacinda Ardern says there are 53 Kiwis known to be in Wuhan, but there are no plans to evacuate them. She said the election date would remain at September 19. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says the likelihood of cases in New Zealand is high, but the probability of an outbreak is low.

January 28: The Ministry of Education urges students who have been in China recently not to come to school. Queenstown has a scare, with reports of a case turning out to be false.

January 29: Searches for face masks and hand sanitiser skyrocket on Trade Me. Australia and New Zealand team up to help some citizens get out of Wuhan. The number of cases surpasses that of the SARS epidemic.

January 30: The Govt charters a flight from Wuhan to Auckland to evacuate Kiwis and the WHO declares a global health emergency.

January 31: On a day the death toll rises 37 to 162, Newshub calls it an "alarming jump" - unaware of the horrors yet to come. Air NZ defends continuing to fly into China as other airlines pull out. The first Kiwis coming home from Wuhan say they aren't being tested on arrival. The first estimate of who's at risk of contracting the disease singles out middle-aged men. There is a suspected patient in Auckland, later cleared. 


February 1: Australia bans arrivals from China. Air NZ stops flights into China.

February 2: The Govt bans travellers from China

February 4: Events in New Zealand start getting cancelled - starting with the Auckland Lantern Festival. 

February 5: The first NZ repatriation flight from Wuhan takes off. The virus is detected on cruise ship The Diamond Princess for the first time.

February 6: The first New Zealander is confirmed infected, a passenger on The Diamond Princess.

February 7: Supermarkets start putting limits on how much hand sanitizer people can buy. The Ministry of Health sets up a coronavirus hotline. Within two days, hundreds of Kiwis have put themselves into self-isolation

February 9: Retailer Harvey Norman is slammed for a 'racist' coronavirus-themed sign.

February 12: The Chinese Ambassador urges NZ to drop its travel ban. Tourism in Queenstown starts to fall. The virus reaches London. The disease caused by the virus is officially named COVID-19.

February 16: Auckland's Chinese restaurants report a massive downturn, despite no links to Wuhan.

February 17: A fake news yarn which claims six cases have been confirmed in Wellington angers the Ministry of Health. A Chinese tourist in France is the first person to die of the disease outside of Asia. 

February 18: NZ and Australia team up again, this time to extract citizens on The Diamond Princess. NZ Post cuts off deliveries to and from China.

February 21: A Kiwi who'd recently been in Italy develops symptoms of COVID-19 on arrival in New Zealand. With no history of travel to China they didn't fit the testing criteria at the time, so weren't immediately diagnosed. Their confirmation as New Zealand's likely first case wouldn't come until September. More than 3500 Kiwis have completed self-isolation so far.

February 24: Ardern warns it's "not realistic to assume" NZ will never get the virus. Govt agencies launch a 'rapid research' fund in response to COVID-19.

February 25: Dr Baker warns the virus could infect possibly billions.

February 26: A person who would later be New Zealand's first confirmed case leaves Iran, headed our way. There are now more new cases of the virus outside of China than within.

Ashley Bloomfield in February.
Ashley Bloomfield in February. Photo credit: Newshub.

February 28: New Zealand has its first confirmed case of COVID-19 - an individual in their 60s who returned to the country from Iran via Bali, Indonesia. We're the 48th country in the world to report the virus. Dr O'Sullivan retracts his earlier statements playing down the threat, says he got it wrong. Closures around the world begin. NZ bans travellers from Iran. Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Nigeria and the Netherlands all report their first cases too. Rock band Tool performs in Auckland - it's later revealed frontman Maynard James Keenan had the virus at the time, as did one of the concertgoers.

February 29: Lines form outside supermarkets in Auckland, people rushing to panic-buy items such as toilet paper and baking goods, despite assurances, there's no need to. Studies later said older people and those more prone to anxiety were behind most of the panic-buying. Jacinda Ardern slams "irresponsible' headlines" for causing "unnecessary anxiety". US President Donald Trump calls the virus a "new hoax". Health staff start meeting passengers at NZ airports. 

Panic-buying in Auckland.
Panic-buying in Auckland. Photo credit: Newshub.


March 1: Samoa cuts the number of flights from NZ it will accept.

March 2: Dr Bloomfield warns there is "no doubt" Kiwis will die if the virus gets loose. Then-Opposition leader Simon Bridges slams the Government's handling of the first case, calling it "subpar". The virus arrives in New York. Ardern devotes $4 million to help businesses deal with the financial impact - yes, million, not billion. Human-to-human transmission of the disease is confirmed.

March 4: New Zealand has its second confirmed case. Expert Siouxsie Wiles urges Bridges to tone down his criticism of officials.

March 5: New Zealand has its first case of community transmission. Dr Baker warns the virus could be transmitting silently - asymptomatic transmission wouldn't be confirmed until later. Mana whenua implement a 'hongi ban'

March 6: Judith Collins assures the country there's plenty of bog roll to go around. The Tool concert is singled out as a possible super-spreader event.

March 7: New Zealand records two cases for the first time. Worldwide infections pass 100,000. A Wellington doctor urges drive-thru testing hubs, which would later become the norm - then-Health Minister David Clark says they're not needed yet.

March 9: BNZ becomes the first major New Zealand bank to predict a recession. Delegates from around the world descend on Queenstown for an agriculture conference, which is later deemed a superspreader event.

March 10: The National Crisis Management Centre is activated to coordinate a response. Italy goes into total lockdown.

March 11: A Kiwi back from hard-hit Italy says no precautions were taken to separate her from other passengers. NZ puts a ban on travellers from Italy.

March 12: The outbreak is declared a pandemic by the WHO. GPs here start turning away patients with flu-like symptoms

March 13: Scientists say COVID-19 can spread asymptomatically, as Dr Baker had predicted. Auckland Council cancels the Pasifika Festival. Collins predicts Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the US will secure his reelection. Kiwis start stocking up on sex toys. World markets suffer their biggest drop in 30 years.

March 14: NZ First's Tracey Martin is the first MP to go into self-isolation. Ardern announces every person coming into NZ has to self-isolate, and cruise ships are banned. The Blackcaps' series against Australia is called off.

March 15: Brain Tamaki hopes prayer can end the pandemic, while other church leaders see no need to cancel Mass. Green MP Chloe Swarbrick goes into self-isolation, as does National's Chris Bishop. Australia follows NZ in requiring arrivals to self-isolate. Two more Kiwis test positive. Memorials for the anniversary of the Christchurch terror attack are cancelled.

March 16: Dr Wiles warns the UK's lax approach to COVID-19 could kill half-a-million people, while NZ will be able to "watch the rest of the world burn" if we stop outbreaks. Clever but somewhat insensitive kids on social media dub the virus the 'boomer remover'. Destiny Church vows not to close during any lockdowns. Polyfest is cancelled, as is Fieldays. Treasury predicts a recession. The Govt bans gatherings of more than 500 people. Ardern says people who don't self-isolate on arrival will be deported.

March 17: The Govt unveils a $12 billion economic package, including a permanent benefit boost and a wage subsidy. Travellers refusing to self-isolate on arrival are taken into custody. Bunnings suspends its iconic sausage sizzles. Three new cases are confirmed.

March 18: The Govt urges Kiwis overseas to get home while they still can. Anzac Day services are cancelled. The Govt unveils its Unite Against COVID-19 campaign and the "be kind" slogan. University of Otago students hold a massive party near a school which closed after a confirmed case. Rainbow's End closes. Christchurch gets its first testing station - its location kept a secret. Court trials are delayed.

March 19: Ardern warns Kiwis to prepare to work from home. A false message claiming a lockdown had already been announced spreads on social media. Landlords say it's business as usual, with no plans to reduce or freeze rents. NZ closes the border to non-residents. Eight new cases are confirmed, the most in a single day yet.

March 20: The Ministry of Health confirms the first double-digit increase in new cases, 11, bringing the total to 39. Dr Clark says there's still no evidence of community transmission. Auckland Council shuts down key facilities. The Reserve Bank makes its first move to help the economy get through the coming crisis. Te Papa closes.

March 21: The Government unveils the four-level alert system, the whole country starting at level 2. Testing stations are set up nationwide after health officials said transmission couldn't be ruled out.

ardern alert
Ardern unveils the alert system. Photo credit: Getty

March 22: An international cattle conference in Queenstown starts a major outbreak. The first rest home goes into lockdown. Fast food restaurants begin to limit indoor seating. Fourteen new cases are confirmed. 

March 23: Ardern announces New Zealand will move to level 3 immediately, and level 4 in two days' time. The Prime Minister's former chief science advisor calls for an immediate total lockdown. Bridges halts election campaign, calls for 'grand coalition' against COVID-19. Former MP Hone Harawira announces plans to set up roadblocks in Northland. The Govt freezes rents. Panic-buying goes into overdrive, with total spending up 50 percent. NZ's total case count surpasses 100, with 36 new cases. 

March 24: The UK goes into lockdown, following NZ. Kiwis queue outside gun shops and liquor stores. NZ reports 40 new cases. Loss of smell is reported as a symptom for the first time. A six-month mortgage holiday is announced. Ardern condemns shops trying to pass themselves off as essential and staying open, putting the public at risk. Forty-three new cases are announced, including four of community transmission. 

March 25: Dr Bloomfield warns the number of cases each day will continue to rise. Fifty more are reported. Health care workers report being assaulted by angry people wanting tests. Ardern warns supermarkets, now with a captive market, not to price gouge. A state of emergency is declared. The Olympics are postponed to 2021. Fifty new cases are announced. 

March 26: New Zealand goes into a nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the virus, closing most businesses, schools and workplaces. Seventy-eight new cases are confirmed. Lots of people arriving in the country have no plans to isolate. Ardern gets angry at reports landlords are threatening to evict tenants. Research suggests uncontrolled spread of the disease could kill 80,000 Kiwis.

March 27: The US overtakes China for most COVID-19 cases. NZ records another 85

March 29: New Zealand has its first death from COVID-19 - an elderly woman from the West Coast. Sixty-three new cases are found. The first reports of reinfection emerge, as do reports of employers taking the COVID subsidy when they don't need it. New Zealand's case total hits 500.

March 30: Another 76 cases are confirmed. The first lockdown breach arrests are made. A cluster is traced back to a St Patrick's Day event at a bar in Matamata. The Government adds whiteware, heaters and computers to the list of goods that can be sold in lockdown. 

March 31: Air NZ starts cutting staff. Researchers warn 14,000 Kiwis could die if the virus isn't eliminated. Drug users are told to stop sharing bongs. Testing criteria is widened, allowing more people showing symptoms to get checked. Property managers tell tenants to ask the Government for assistance if they're struggling to pay rent, rather than ask for a rent holiday. Dr Clark goes on a rule-breaking bike ride which will eventually lead to him losing the health portfolio.


April 1: Another 61 cases are reported. Ardern points the finger at people in their 20s for not taking lockdown seriously. There's a nationwide flour shortage as people stock up for baking at home.

April 2: The peak of the outbreak in New Zealand, with 89 new cases reported in a single day (matched a few days later, but never beaten). Magazine publisher Bauer quits NZ, citing the lockdown. Auckland's so quiet, earthquake sensors think it's Sunday every day. Police admit they can't track every Kiwi who comes home and goes into self-isolation. Police descend on Kaitaia after reports of widespread lockdown breaches.

April 3: Finance Minister Grant Robertson allows businesses to place debts into hibernation and announces a relief package for sports organisations. The world passes 1 million confirmed cases. Dr Baker makes a bold prediction - that NZ could possibly eliminate the virus. Labour MP Willie Jackson says the Govt won't force Kiwis into quarantine when they come home due to human rights concerns (they later do). Another 71 cases are reported, including some at a primary school. SkyCity cuts 200 jobs. St John refuses to pick up a potential COVID-19 patient.

April 4: Another 82 cases are reported, while the Ministry of Health says the lockdown appears to be flattening the curve. Spirits are pulled from west Auckland liquor store shelves after Aucklanders from other parts of the city, where they're banned, kept showing up to buy them.

People from across Auckland went west to buy booze.
People from across Auckland went west to buy booze. Photo credit: Newshub.

April 5: The number of confirmed and probable cases in New Zealand passes 1000. Again, 89 new cases are reported - it would never get this high again. Ardern rules out calls for a stricter 'level 5' lockdown, but agencies warn phones might have to be tracked if people keep flouting the rules.

April 6: Dr Wiles urges Kiwis to stop meeting their neighbours at the end of their driveways. Talk of a move to level 3 begins. The Govt reveals it's working on an app for contact tracing.

April 7: The Queen sends a message of support to New Zealand. Dr Clark is demoted after a second lockdown breach. The Govt launches a mental health campaign. Tech experts start calling for an app to track movement. BusinessNZ warns unemployment could hit 10 percent. Concerns are raised about Opposition leader Simon Bridges' lengthy commutes from Tauranga to Wellington. ACT leader David Seymour calls for lockdown to end early. The state of emergency is extended. A landlord is arrested after gatecrashing his tenants' property, saying it was his house. For the first time, recoveries - 65 - outnumber new cases - 54.

April 8: Spark Arena is turned into a foodbank. Nurses are angry after being told to ration masks and other PPE. International praise for NZ's strict lockdown begins. Ardern debunks rumours 5G has anything to do with COVID-19. There have now been 37,000 reported lockdown breaches and 45 prosecutions. Flight Centre shuts 58 NZ stores.

April 9: The number of new cases is just 29, dropping rapidly in the space of a few days. Ardern announces how New Zealand's managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) systems will work. New modelling suggests NZ is on a course for elimination.

April 10: The Taxpayers' Union gives up "ideological purity" and accepts taxpayer funding to avoid laying off staff.

April 11: A supermarket shopper at Countdown goes viral on TikTok after being spotted wearing a Heineken beer box in place of a mask. The NZ death toll hits four.

April 13: UK PM Boris Johnson, hospitalised with the virus, reveals his life was saved by a Kiwi nurse. A survey finds most Kiwis back extending lockdown if it helps eradicate the virus.

April 14: Four more deaths are linked to COVID-19, bringing our total to nine. NZME cuts more than 200 jobs and Burger King goes into receivership. Some idiot sets fire to a cellphone tower, possibly believing it could cause COVID-19. Winston Peters causes outrage after uploading a photo in which he's enjoying a bit of fishing. A mystery Auckland cluster is linked to a stag party. Harawira breaks his own border controls to have breakfast with his sister in Auckland. For the first time on record, more Kiwis arrive home than leave. Dr Bloomfield says the NZ outbreak is past its peak

April 15: The Govt introduces more financial support for small- to medium-sized businesses, Robertson calling COVID-19 a once-in-a-century economic shock. Home-schooling TV channel Papa Kainga launches. The anti-lockdown group of academics Plan B emerges, calling for an end to the lockdown.

April 16: Newshub's Europe correspondent Lloyd Burr returns to screens after a few weeks off sick - it's probably COVID-19, but there are few testing facilities available in the UK at the time. Ardern reveals what level 3 will look like.

April 17: Forecasters wrongly tip house prices to plummet. Collins delivers her infamous 'like level 4 but with KFC' line. Some experts break with the WHO and say COVID-19 is airborne - they are later proved correct. Two more deaths bring NZ's toll to 11. Rescue services reveal massive drops in donations.

April 18: Countdown declares the toilet paper shortage over.

Toilet paper was in short supply for a time.
Toilet paper was in short supply for a time. Photo credit: Getty

April 19: The death toll rises to 12. Ardern urges Kiwis to start keeping a record of their own movements to assist with contact tracing. Plan B calls for an immediate move to level 2, claiming - to a nationwide audience on the 6pm news - alternate views to lockdown are being censored.

April 20: Ardern announces level 4 will last an extra week. Americans start investigating doomsday bunkers in NZ, to escape the disaster back home. UK nurses who performed a viral haka to show their "passion and drive to beat coronavirus" are slammed for cultural appropriation.

April 21: The Ministry of Health launches an investigation into reported lack of PPE for frontline health workers. 

April 22: More UK health workers offend with a well-meaning, but bad, haka. Dr O'Sullivan, who made headlines complaining about people breaching lockdown, admits breaking the rules himself. Air NZ says 30 of its staff have been infected. Another two deaths are reported, but only three new cases. The Govt is warned the pandemic could kill off media companies without intervention.

April 23: Police shut down unauthorised roadblocks in the north. Experts call for widespread mask adoption, but Dr Bloomfield says they're optional.

April 25: A man who went around supermarkets sneezing on people is arrested, and later jailed. Kiwis, ignoring advice from health experts, stand at the end of their driveways to mark Anzac Day. Hopes of a trans-Tasman bubble are raised by Winston Peters.

April 28: NZ moves to alert level 3, sparking massive demand at takeaways and raising fears of a return to level 4. South Auckland is outed as the worst region for lockdown breaches.

April 29: The anti-lockdown group Plan B continues to complain in the national media it is being censored, claims the lockdown was more harmful than the pandemic itself. Another expert says we should be at level 2 unless the Govt is hiding something. Data shows influenza has become rare thanks to the lockdown.

April 30: Hundreds of Kiwis continue to breach level 3 rules.


May 1: Genetic testing shows there were at least 35 "unique introductions" of the virus into New Zealand. Robertson rails against "idiots" holding house parties under level 3 and begs people to stop attending massive funerals and tangi

May 2: The Mayor of Westland says they shouldn't be in lockdown as they've had no COVID deaths in the "last 150 years". A popular radio host is fired over breaching lockdown. Another two clusters are deemed closed, leaving 13 still open

May 3: Hundreds of reports come in of parties being held during the first weekend under level 3. The Human Rights Commission says there's been a spike in racism thanks to the pandemic.

May 4: For the first time since seven weeks, no new cases are reported in 24 hours, prompting a fist-pump from Dr Bloomfield. At the time, New Zealand had 1487 total probable and confirmed cases. Economists continue to wrongly predict the pandemic will bring house prices down. Ardern orders a review of 24 cases of people in mandatory quarantine who want an exemption to see dying relatives. Calls for a delayed election date grow.

May 5: A second day of no cases.

May 6: Unemployment rose to 4.2 percent in the March quarter, it's revealed. The brief run of zero cases is ended with two new infections and a death. MIQ exemptions for new arrivals to see dying relatives are granted, while some miss out. Dr Baker urges the Govt to make masks on public transport mandatory.

May 8: Redundant cabin crew are reportedly showing up in droves at strip clubs, looking for work. A massive document dump reveals some of what went on behind the scenes in March as the country went into lockdown.

May 13: Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki vows to ignore rules about gathering sizes. Parliament passes the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill, clearing up legal ambiguities around the lockdown.

May 14: NZ goes to alert level 2. The first thing many do is get a haircut. The Govt brings in legislation to cut MPs' pay briefly. NZ records its third day in a row with no new cases. The wage subsidy is extended. The Govt releases its latest Budget.

May 16: A Māori Party candidate claims the Govt carried out "ethnic cleansing" in its response to the pandemic.

May 17: Ardern finds herself denied service at a cafe because it was already full under level 2 restrictions. Tamaki flouts the rules by hosting a massive church service.

May 18: Schools reopen, but Auckland roads remain quiet as many people continue to work from home. The Govt reveals its COVID Tracer app.

May 19: Study shows air pollution plummeted across the country during lockdown. The COVID Tracer app is released.

May 20: Fletcher axes 1000 jobs. Dr Bloomfield shows off his new haircut.

Dr Bloomfield's new haircut.
Dr Bloomfield's new haircut. Photo credit: Getty

May 21: New figures show homicides, sexual assaults and robberies were all down during the lockdown, as was child abuse.

May 22: Auckland Council reveals it now has a $550 million funding shortfall. The road toll, down during lockdown, starts creeping back up.

May 26: Dr Bloomfield says if our response was as bad as the UK's we'd have had 3500 deaths by now.

May 27: The last person in hospital with COVID-19 is discharged.

May 28: The South Island is declared COVID-19 free. A Kiwi man selling bleach online as a COVID cure is criticised.

May 29: NZ marks a week with no new cases.

May 30: Hobbiton reopens to tourists

May 31: Churches reopen.


June 1: NZ marks 10 days without a case. Black Lives Matter supporters are urged to cancel a planned protest in Auckland, but the police decline to prosecute organisers.

June 3: Bunnings announces store closures.Students catch a break, with extra NCEA credits on offer to make up for the lockdown disruption.

June 5: A survey shows 89 percent of businesses were kept afloat by the wage subsidy.

June 6: NZ marks two whole weeks without a new case.

June 7: Two infected women arrive in New Zealand from the UK via Brisbane. No one realises at the time they are infected, and they're granted compassionate exemption to leave isolation to visit a dying family member in another city. 

June 8: NZ is officially COVID-free, the last person infected recovering. Worldwide, 400,000 have now lost their lives.

June 9: NZ goes to level 1. Dr Bloomfield gives his "last" 1pm briefing - for now

June 11: The UK copies NZ's 'bubble' concept. A report reveals many rest homes weren't prepared for COVID-19 and the lockdowns.

June 12: NZ marks three weeks without any cases.

June 15: The Commerce Commission says it has fielded 67 complaints about fake COVID-19 'cures'. Brits suggest ways in which Ardern could take over from Boris Johnson in the UK.

June 16: NZ's 24-day run of zero cases is broken with two new infections - the women who were granted compassionate exemptions from isolation earlier in the month. Compassionate exemptions at the border are scrapped. And another person allowed out to attend a funeral doesn't return, prompting a police manhunt.

June 17: The Defence Force is brought in to help manage MIQ facilities, Ardern saying the mistake in letting the two women leave "should never have happened". The same day, another screw-up is revealed - 10 people allowed out to attend a burial with 150 others. And another person allowed out to attend a funeral doesn't return, prompting a police manhunt.

June 18: National MP Michael Woodhouse makes a bombshell allegation a homeless man snuck into an MIQ hotel and stayed there, on the taxpayer, for two weeks. It later turns out Woodhouse was wrong, despite Collins insisting it was true. It's revealed another 18 people were allowed out of MIQ for a funeral, but half weren't tested beforehand. There's shock after a public wedding party was held at a quarantine hotel.

June 19: Megan Woods is put in charge of MIQ. Testing on days three and 12 for all new arrivals begins, symptomatic or not.

June 23: Regular testing of all managed isolation and quarantine staff for COVID-19 is meant to begin, but it doesn't happen until Auckland's outbreak in August. The Govt announces it's considering charging new arrivals for their stay in MIQ.

June 24: Dr Bloomfield says he can't rule out undetected community transmission, after it's revealed most people let out of MIQ early weren't tested. Dr Clark throws Dr Bloomfield under the bus, blaming him for failures in MIQ - footage of the moment goes viral.

June 27: Documents show Dr Bloomfield wanted level 2 to last a lot longer.

June 28: A review of MIQ facilities finds a number of ways they could be improved

The moment Dr Clark's position has Health Minister became untenable.
The moment Dr Clark's position has Health Minister became untenable. Photo credit: Newshub.


July 1: Ardern says a recent surge in Australia shows NZ isn't immune to a second wave.

July 2: Woods brings back compassionate leave from MIQ in "exceptional" circumstances. Dr Clark resigns as Health Minister, and is replaced by Chris Hipkins.

July 3: National MP Hamish Walker causes outrage after complaining people from India, Pakistan and Korea could be staying in South Island MIQ facilities. Former PM Helen Clark and former Chief Science Adviser Sir Peter Gluckman call for the borders to open soon, saying the virus will never be eradicated.

July 4: England drops quarantine requirements for Kiwis. A data breach reveals details about NZ's COVID patients - it later turns out to have been leaked by National MP Hamish Walker, effectively ending his political career.

July 5: A woman who absconded from the Pullman Hotel MIQ facility in Auckland is arrested. 

July 7: Australia's second wave ruins chances of a trans-Tasman bubble, with Melbourne going into a six-week lockdown. The WHO acknowledges the virus is airborne.

July 8: The WHO praises NZ's efforts to eliminate the virus. A man who escaped isolation to visit a supermarket tests positive - Newshub's Patrick Gower, who was at the supermarket, goes into isolation.

July 9: Woods says she'd like to have MIQ facilities outside of city centres, but there's nowhere else that meets health criteria. A Kiwi on Reddit who brags about not having to wear a mask goes viral.

July 10: Helen Clark is named to lead a WHO investigation into its handling of the pandemic. Another person is arrested for escaping MIQ - he went to buy some booze. Another is arrested the following day.

July 16: The Govt begs people to install the COVID Tracer app, with downloads screeching to a halt under level 1.

July 19: Woods says it's likely MIQ charges will be put in place, angering expats.

July 23: A new report says it's lucky the Government doesn't have a "totalitarian bent" considering the powers it granted itself in May's COVID-19 Public Health Response Act. 

July 24: The number of people on income support surpasses the number during the global financial crisis. It's revealed nurses have been working at both hospitals and MIQ facilities, putting patients at risk. Five more people escape from an isolation facility.

July 27: Billy Te Kahika, conspiracy theorist and leader of the new Public Party, claims people are arriving in yachts and boats to skip quarantine. Like many of his claims, there's no evidence of this.

Billy Te Kahika.
Billy Te Kahika. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

July 28: The WHO praises NZ again. Hundreds of recipients of the COVID wage subsidy are asked to pay it back.

July 29: Flight Centre says it has "no choice" but to cut 230 jobs.

July 30: Americans flood Immigration NZ's website, looking to move somewhere without COVID. Another person is arrested for escaping isolation.

July 31: It's revealed the Govt considered fining or jailing people who refused to use the COVID Tracer app.


August 3: Former UK PM Tony Blair praises NZ's handling of the pandemic.

August 5: Dr Bloomfield ominously warns it's a matter of when COVID comes back, not if.

August 6: In a strange turn of events, a woman is caught sneaking into an MIQ centre. The Ministry of Health urges Kiwis to have masks ready in case of community transmission. Simon Bridges claims the Govt is about to announce a Cook Islands bubble. It doesn't happen.

August 7: A Productivity Commission report suggesting the lockdown extension cost the country a fortune is rubbished by experts.

August 8: A south Auckland woman develops symptoms, and travels to Rotorua for a weekend visit, not realising she has COVID-19. A study finds most of New Zealand's initial cases came from North America.

August 9: NZ marks 100 days without community transmission, unaware there is an undetected case on the loose.

August 10: An Auckland man in his 50s is tested for COVID-19. The next day he's confirmed as the first case of community transmission since May. The Government starts charging new arrivals for MIQ

August 11: Ardern announces Auckland will go to level 3 lockdown from midday on August 12, and the rest of the country to level 2, with four new cases of community transmission found.

August 12: The election campaign is nominally suspended. Police attend 'disorder' incidents at supermarkets, as Aucklanders go into panic-buying mode again. Ardern denies knowing about the new cases days in advance. Police set up checkpoints around Auckland.

August 13: Testing stations stay open late into the night to handle the demand. National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee sparks outrage by suggesting health officials and Ardern knew about the new cases well in advance, which Ardern has denied. All COVID cases will now be put into quarantine. Dr Bloomfield says it's unlikely the virus arrived on an overseas import, but no one's really sure where it comes from. COVID conspiracy theorists spray anti-lockdown graffiti on a Christchurch war memorial. Several schools close after recording cases - including one that was mistakenly named.

August 14: Testing is made mandatory for staff at Ports of Auckland and Port of Tauranga. Winston Peters says the virus must have come in through the border, but the source is never found. A British MP sparks a string of bizarre false claims from others after claiming anyone with a cold in NZ is quarantined. Auckland's lockdown is extended, as is the wage subsidy.

August 15: All ports staff are ordered to undergo testing, as the hunt for the source of the outbreak continues. Another seven community cases are reported, bringing the total to 37. False rumours on social media ramp up.

August 16: Hipkins angrily tells off the country for spreading rumours. Aucklanders flock to beaches and parks, despite the lockdown.

Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins. Photo credit: Getty

August 17: Robertson extends mortgage holidays. The cool store at the centre of the outbreak says it's impossible for the virus to have arrived on its imports. Another nine community cases are reported. The election is delayed by a month.

August 18: US President Donald Trump says New Zealand has had a "big surge" in cases. There were just nine cases reported the day before, compared to the United States' 42,000. Ardern admits testing of border staff wasn't up to scratch. The Ministry of Health has to waste more time dealing with false rumours, this time about face masks. Another 13 cases are detected, including one that can't be linked to a known cluster - it's later discovered they were infected after entering an elevator after a known case.

August 19: The number of NZDF personnel at MIQ facilities is doubled.The High Court rules the first nine days of the lockdown in March were technically unlawful, but justified. Hipkins later defends it, saying it was necessary.

August 20: The latest myth Hipkins has to shut down is that Oranga Tamariki is taking children away from parents who test positive.

August 21: ACT calls for returning Kiwis to stay in Airbnbs, rather than MIQ.

August 22: A lunch date with Ashley Bloomfield sells for $13,550 on Trade Me. Nine people are in hospital with COVID-19. Anti-lockdown protesters fill Auckland's CBD.

August 23: Ardern says she was "gutted" to learn COVID was back when she first found out earlier this month. Some of Auckland's border restrictions are relaxed. The #NZHellHole hashtag is created. STA Travel collapses.

August 24: Face masks are made mandatory on public transport under levels 2, 3 and 4. The lockdown is extended a bit further.

August 26: A mini-cluster of cases at a church with no connection to the main outbreak has officials concerned.

August 30: Auckland moves to 'level 2.5', despite 11 new cases being picked up the day before. There is confusion after a misleading Facebook post urged everyone in west and south Auckland to get tested.


September 1: Trade Me founder Sam Morgan pulls the plug on his Bluetooth CovidCard idea, saying the Government isn't taking it seriously.

September 2: Germans protesting against lockdowns outrage Kiwis with a haka. Work on a Kiwi-made vaccine gets underway. A funeral held today infects more people, who test positive a week later.

September 3: Dr Bloomfield reveals he had moments of self-doubt when advising whether New Zealand should go into lockdown back in March. Final applications for the wage subsidy are made. Hipkins slams Kiwis spreading deliberate misinfo on vaccines.

September 4: NZ has its first reported death in months. The current alert levels are extended another 12 days. A study finds Maori are 50 percent more likely to die if they get COVID-19 than others.

September 5: Another death is recorded - this time former Cook Islands PM Joe Williams. He's the 24th. A massive anti-lockdown protest takes place in Aotea Square.

Anti-lockdown protesters gather to protest.
Anti-lockdown protesters ironically gather to protest in Aotea Square. Photo credit: Newshub.

September 6: Border workers now have to undergo mandatory testing

September 7: Australia unveils plans to let Kiwis in without quarantine - NZ doesn't return the favour.

September 9: Police are called in after it emerges members of an evangelical church haven't been disclosing their full contact lists. A rush-hour bus driver tests positive.

September 10: Hipkins warns the continued spread of misinformation could see NZ staying under restrictions for longer.

September 11: Labour MP David Parker says a vaccine is likely by June 2021. REINZ data baffles economists, showing house prices have soared to record highs despite the recession. The Govt says it'll pay for flights home for people stranded in NZ. Green MP Chloe Swarbrick uploads video of her COVID test to the internet.

September 12: Yet again, anti-lockdown protesters take advantage of NZ's freedom of movement to protest against lockdowns.

September 14: An anti-masker goes on a foul-mouthed tirade on an Auckland ferry. The existing restrictions are extended another week.

September 15: Dr Bloomfield and Ardern disagree on how the virus got back into NZ. Students are concerned after their uni tells them to go back to class - the uni later backtracks.

September 16: The 25th - and last to date - another person dies of COVID-19.

September 17: Data shows GDP fell a record 12.2 percent in the June quarter. A new book details how many prominent Kiwis handled the lockdown earlier this year. There's another escape from isolation.

September 18: The army sends more troops to Hamilton to stop people from breaking out of isolation. NZ exports two cases to Malaysia.

September 19: A Dunedin pizza parlour outrages after kicking out Aucklanders.

September 22: Auckland moves to level 2, the rest of the country to level 1. National promises to use private-sector isolation facilities. Dr Bloomfield embarrasses himself by pronouncing Benee, Beneé.

September 23: The date of NZ's first case is pushed back to February 21, after the discovery of our first 'historical' cases. The University of Auckland cancels October graduations. A survey finds one-in-five Kiwis think COVID-19 was made in a lab.

September 25: It emerges an Auckland family infected with COVID-19 failed to observe group limits when they went to Taupo, potentially infecting others and worrying experts

September 26: Experts in journal The Lancet urge other countries to copy NZ's approach.

September 28: Another person escapes isolation by tying bedsheets together and climbing out the window. Job loss figures in Auckland aren't as bad as everyone expected.

September 29: The worldwide death toll hits 1 million.

September 30: The last cluster - of unknown origin - goes two weeks with just one new case.


October 1: Ten people on a single flight into NZ test positive.

October 2: US expert Anthony Fauci praises NZ's response to COVID-19. Dr Baker calls for pre-departure testing. Trump tests positive.

October 5: Seymour says Trump catching COVID-19 is "comeuppance".

October 7: There are no more active community cases.

October 8: Auckland joins the rest of the country at level 1.

October 9: A woman tries more than once to escape MIQ.

October 10: Tool singer Maynard James Keenan reveals he had COVID-19 when his band performed in New Zealand earlier this year. Conspiracy theorists march down Queen St, spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and 5G. Ardern announces a review of how people keep escaping MIQ.

Tool perform in New Zealand.
Tool perform in New Zealand. Photo credit: Newshub.

October 11: The All Blacks play in front of a packed stadium - a rarity in 2020. The 1 millionth NZ COVID test is carried out.

October 13: The WHO says NZ's elimination strategy has put the country in an advantageous position.The Warehouse, which used the wage subsidy and posted a profit, cuts hundreds of jobs. A woman somehow manages to book a room at an isolation hotel and is let in.

October 14: Newshub reveals a 'severe' shortage of nurses at MIQ facilities.

October 15: An international study finds NZ went harder and earlier at fighting COVID-19 than any other country in the world.

October 16: The first Kiwis land in Australia without having to quarantine. Fourteen are later detained after breaking local travel restrictions.

October 18: A new community case is detected in Auckland. The alert levels stay where they are.

October 20: While there have been regular small numbers of positive cases being picked up in MIQ, dozens of cases at once arrive on a fishing boat.

October 21: New fears of an Auckland outbreak after an infectious person visits a bar in Greenhithe. Health officials urge people use the COVID Tracer app, with check-ins falling.

October 22: COVID-19 has forced ports to delay, with some shipping companies suspending all New Zealand-bound cargo.

October 23: A case is confirmed to have been to an Auckland gym. Dr Bloomfield warns Kiwis alert levels will rise for Xmas if they're not careful.A Westpac staffer tests positive.

October 25: More misinformation about alert level changes spreads on social media.

October 26: It's revealed more than 30 people breached MIQ rules in April, May and June, but none were charged.

October 27: A child in Japan tests positive after leaving New Zealand.

October 28: A UK politician compares NZ to Nazi Germany over its successful COVID response.

October 29: Fox News falsely claims Kiwis are being thrown into camps, prompting mockery.

October 30: NZ marks a week without a community case.


November 2: Another community case is reported - an MIQ staff member. Hipkins is named the country's first COVID-19 Response Minister.

November 3: The MIQ system is nearly fully booked out for Xmas, disappointing people who want to come home to see family. Dr Bloomfield is baffled to learn he's been nominated as TV Personality of the Year. Another MIQ worker tests positive.

November 5: Testing of sewage begins to pick up undetected cases.

November 6: Another MIQ worker is positive, sparking what would come to be known as the 'November quarantine cluster'.

November 8: Defence Force employees linked to the cluster test positive

November 9: Ardern says the new cluster is nothing to worry about.

November 10: The first vaccine to undergo phase III trials shows at least 90 percent effectiveness in early data. The Government says it should be here around March.

November 11: Someone threatens to spread COVID-19 at University of Auckland exams. The first refugees to arrive since March complete their isolation.

November 12: The National Library says it will preserve Dr Bloomfield memes and fan art. A new community case is detected in Auckland - a CBD retail worker, sparking fears of a shift in alert levels that never eventuates. Aucklanders are told to work from home if possible.

November 13: Auckland Uni moves its exams online. People who live in the same building as the new case are seen coming and going, despite being told to stay home - officials are soon stationed there. The infected person denies reports their boss forced them to come to work, despite being sick. It's discovered the new case is linked to the cluster, so no shift in alert levels happens.

November 14: There are calls for the COVID Tracer app to become compulsory. 

November 15: The total number of confirmed and probable cases in New Zealand tops 2000. There are calls to move MIQ facilities out of cities to discourage escape attempts.

November 16: China claims NZ exported the virus on meat. The Govt makes masks mandatory on flights and public transport.

November 17: Doctors warn a measles outbreak is likely in 2021.

Dr Wiles
Dr Wiles. Photo credit: Supplied

November 18: Dr Wiles is named the supreme winner at the Women of Influence awards for her work this year. She's later named by the BBC as one of the world's 100 most inspiring women.

November 19: Testing of border workers ramps up. The Govt reaches a deal to buy enough vaccines for everyone.

November 23: An Air NZ crew member tests positive

November 25: Bloomberg ranks NZ the best country to live in right now. The Defence Force bans its MIQ workers from going out and socialising.

November 26: MIQ workers will finally get N95 masks after months of pleading.

November 27: Indian artists pay tribute to Jacinda Ardern in song on her 'war against virus'. Australia pushes for a two-way bubble with NZ before Xmas. A number of Pakistani cricketers test positive in MIQ.

November 30: It's revealed a number of multinational companies that took the wage subsidy have posted massive profits.


December 4: Ardern says she'll get vaccinated publicly to encourage uptake.

December 8: The Pfizer vaccine rolls out in the UK.

December 9: The COVID Tracer app gets Bluetooth tracing capabilities.

December 12: NZ says it won't be pushing for patents to be waived to enable poorer countries to make their own versions of proven vaccines.

December 14: The Govt says plans are in place for bubbles with Australia and the Cook Islands soon.

December 15: The Govt unveils its plans to keep COVID at bay over summer.

December 16: Hipkins warns there could be hundreds of cases at the border over summer as the pandemic overseas worsens in the winter months.

December 17: The Govt says it now has 15 million doses of different COVID vaccines secured for NZ and our Pacific neighbours. Data shows GDP rose a record 14 percent in the September quarter, one of the best recoveries of any economy in the world.

December 18: NZ has gone a month without any community transmission. Hipkins praises Dr Clark, saying history will remember him better than many Kiwis will. A report into NZ's border response finds numerous problems. Dr Bloomfield praises Dr Clark, saying history will treat him kindly. A report into NZ's COVID response finds numerous holes despite its success, makes major recommendations. Ardern says she'll be giving the middle finger to 2020 on New Year's Eve.

Epidemiologists Nick Wilson and Michael Baker.
Epidemiologists Nick Wilson and Michael Baker. Photo credit: University of Otago

December 20: Global confirmed infections surpass 75 million.

December 21: Ardern thanks MIQ workers for keeping NZ safe. A new outbreak in Sydney should be a warning to NZ, says Dr Baker. Data shows fewer and fewer Kiwis are using the COVID Tracer app - fewer than 200,000 on December 20. Seymour admits Ardern has been a "supreme" communicator during 2020. Officials say the mutant strain from the UK has not been picked up in any new cases here

December 22: It's reported a New Zealand pilot was patient zero in an outbreak in Thailand, breaking their run of no community cases since April. The Govt waives MIQ for low-risk arrivals.

December 23: The global death toll is at 1.71 million, with about 10,000 dying every day. New Zealand's death toll remains at 25. 

December 24: National renews its call for pre-departure tests, fearing the arrival of the UK's new more infectious strain of the disease. They're backed by Dr Baker and other experts.

December 25: Nearly 6000 people spend Christmas Day in MIQ.

December 27: Christmas hasn't stopped the arrival of the virus at our borders, with an average of four cases a day being discovered.

December 28: The Government introduces extra day-zero tests for people arriving from high-risk countries such as the UK and US, as well as unveiling plans to introduce pre-departure tests for people coming from the UK - despite scepticism from some experts it will help much.

December 31: The year ends with Dr Baker being made a member of the NZ Order of Merit for his efforts over the past 12 months. That same day, another 11 cases are reported at the border, while Australia and the UK implement new restrictions to handle their outbreaks.