Coronavirus: How the Government will enforce the COVID-19 lockdown

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says tough rules are needed as the coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown approaches.

New Zealand's COVID-19 alert level will be increased to 4 at midnight - effectively placing the country into lockdown, meaning everyone must self-isolate.

Ardern has warned the outbreak will get worse before getting better.

"We will have a lag and cases will increase for the next week or actually more," she told Parliament on Wednesday.

After addressing Parliament, Ardern spoke with reporters and provided some context as to how the Government. along with other parties such as the police, will enforce the lockdown.

Here's what she had to say.

'Breaking the rules could kill' 

"If you don't comply with the rules, you run the risk of forcing us to extend the period of lockdown, and worse, contribute to the virus defeating us and causing harm to thousands," Ardern told the media on Wednesday afternoon.

"We have all of the legislative means possible, all of the enforcement powers [and] all of the tools we need at our disposal to combat the spread of COVID-19."

Earlier on Wednesday, the Government declared an official state of emergency.

"The state of national emergency declaration allows Civil Defence emergency management controllers to take the necessary steps, if they need to, to ensure the conservation and supply of food, fuel, and other essential supplies, regulate land, water, and air traffic, close roads and public places, evacuate premises including any public place, and, if necessary, to exclude people or vehicles from any premises or place," Ardern said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: The AM Show

'These measures are tough' 

"My expectation, as we move into this phase across the country, is that New Zealanders will observe all of the expectations that have been laid out," Ardern continued.

"Police will be monitoring and will be moving around. They will ask questions of people as they move to essential services, or, for instance, they're outside their homes getting fresh air," she said.

Coronavirus: How the Government will enforce the COVID-19 lockdown
Photo credit: File

What if someone can't explain why they're out in public? 

"They [police] will remind them of their obligations and if they believe they need to, they can take other enforcement actions," Ardern said.

"We're being as clear as we can on the guidance. It may take a bit of time for people to really, truly understand the expectations, but police will be working with them to help them with that, as we will."

What will it take to move out of lockdown? 

Ardern told reporters the Government was working with the scientific community to establish what it could take to move back to alert level 3 and lower.

"At present, what we're looking for of course is a decline in cases," she said.

"Then, we'll be looking at the nature of cases we have. Are they showing us community transmission in particular communities? Can we see the linkages with previous cases? 

"That level of intelligence will tell us exactly what's going on across New Zealand and help guide our decisions going forward."