Coronavirus: Mask-wearing made compulsory when using essential services during alert level 4

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced new mask-wearing rules amid Auckland's community COVID-19 outbreak.

There are now seven cases in Auckland linked to a 58-year-old man - Case A - who tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. 

Six cases were announced on Wednesday. One is a work colleague of Case A - a 20-year-old man - and their three flatmates who are a fully vaccinated nurse, a teacher at Avondale College, and another man. 

The remaining two who tested positive are friends who spent time with the flatmates.

Following the country-wide move into lockdown, it will be mandatory for New Zealanders aged 12 and over to wear masks while visiting essential services currently open during alert level 4, such as supermarkets, pharmacies and service stations. This rule also includes staff.

Ardern told reporters the rule comes into force at 11:59pm on Wednesday.

"This is about ensuring those workers are protected and ensuring those who visit them are too," she says.

The rule has also been extended for when people are using public transport. It's currently mandatory for masks to be worn on buses, trains, ferries, and planes - but they now must be worn in bus terminals and taxis too.

Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield.
Jacinda Ardern and Ashley Bloomfield. Photo credit: Getty Images

"Simply put, in level 4, if you're in a place where you're allowed to be open to provide services to people, or transport, you must wear a mask," Ardern adds.

People are asked to comply with mask use to keep themselves and those around them safe, but Ardern says police are also asked to help support the enforcement of the rules. 

"To people, please take responsibility for yourself and to show care to others.

"Wearing a mask is an act of service to the people around you," the Prime Minister said.

Experts have backed the new mask rules, saying it is a "wise move" in the fight against COVID-19.

Dr Joel Rindelaub, an aerosol chemist at the University of Auckland, says expanding mask mandates from public transit to other indoor areas is a good idea.

"Thanks to the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, the US Center for Disease Control recently renewed their mask use recommendations. Thus, it makes sense for New Zealand to use what other countries have learned to help shape protection strategies against the ever-changing coronavirus," he says.

"The Delta variant is a new threat, and we need to take new action to help fight it."