Coronavirus: Ministry of Health assures Kiwis rumours of imminent lockdown not true

The Ministry of Health has been forced to assure New Zealanders there is no merit to rumours circulating that the country is about to head into a COVID-19 lockdown.

In a late-night post to Facebook on Thursday, the ministry stated Healthline was "reporting many rumours relating to COVID-19 and lockdowns circulating".

"None of the reported rumours are true. There are currently no community cases of COVID-19 or any imminent lockdowns."

The Government said this week that if the highly transmissible Delta variant was to be detected in the community, it would move swiftly to impose restrictions. 

"In the event we discovered Delta we would move to alert level 4...we maintain the best economic response is a strong public health response, and a short sharp lockdown is likely to be more successful [than a longer, less restricted one]," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said on Wednesday.

While Hipkins said future lockdowns may be announced with little notice, each time New Zealand has shifted alert levels, the announcement has come during a press conference attended by the Prime Minister.  

The reported rumours of an imminent lockdown came as the Government on Thursday laid out its vision of how New Zealand would eventually reconnect with the world. From next year, travellers coming to New Zealand will be put into three categories depending on their country of origin.

Low-risk travellers will be allowed in without quarantine - they must be fully vaccinated and coming from low-risk countries. These countries have not yet been named. Medium-risk travellers would be subject to either self-isolation or slightly reduced managed isolation and quarantine, while high-risk arrivals will be subject to the same quarantine procedures currently in place. 

A self-isolation pilot scheme will be run later this year to test the process. 

"This work includes ongoing work on the development of a traveller health declaration system, investigating new testing technology for rapid testing on arrival at airports and reliable pre-departure testing as well as piloting self-isolation arrangements for some New Zealanders and strengthening other public health measures such as contact tracing," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. 

New Zealand hasn't recorded any community cases of the infectious virus in months. On Thursday, the Ministry of Health said there were eight new cases in managed isolation facilities and one new historical case.