Coronavirus: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tells Kiwis to prepare to work from home, prepare to stop non-essential travel

The Prime Minister is calling on New Zealanders to prepare to work from home and prepare to stop non-essential travel, as authorities look to stem the spread of coronavirus COVID-19.

Jacinda Ardern announced on Saturday strict travel restrictions requiring anyone entering New Zealand from outside of the Pacific to self-isolate for 14 days. 

She's also called for mass gatherings to be limited to 500 people and under, with more stringent and specific restrictions to be revealed soon.

But she has now told The Rock's Morning Rumble more preparation is necessary for Kiwis to slow down the spread of COVID-19, which has currently infected 20 people in New Zealand.  More than 200,000 people have the illness worldwide, with more than 8000 deaths. 

"We've been moving early, we haven't been waiting for masses of cases, but we have cases. We are going to have to keep slowing them down if we are to succeed," she said.

"People do need to be prepared. Prepare to work from home, prepare to stop non-essential travel. That is what my message would be."

New Zealand's number of cases dwindles in comparison to other countries around the world, with Ardern saying the Government has acted early to reduce exposure. From the start of February, a ban on individuals who had recently been in China was introduced, followed by another ban on those from Iran.

Before Ardern's Saturday announcement, only people from South Korea and northern Italy were subject to self-isolation requirements. She told The Rock that after those measures were introduced, numbers from South Korea dropped and airlines pulled out of routes.

She expects the requirements now on all countries, but the Pacific, will mean flights "stop altogether". 

"The border control measures… the self-isolation requirements, it won't be long before flights stop altogether, that is what I anticipate," she said.

"That is why MFAT has said to New Zealanders: If you are out travelling and you wish to be in New Zealand, get home now, flights are very likely to stop soon. That will mean that will act as an extra way of slowing down transmission," she said.

Ardern said the vast majority of people entering the country are now New Zealanders. Some have called for testing to be done at the airport, but the Prime Minister said that wouldn't be the most effective measure. 

"Testing every single person isn't the most effective way to look after people's health. It slows the system down, testing thousands and thousands of people, also, you can produce false-negatives and even the thing of temperature checking at the airport would give people the impression that they were fine, and they might be fine now, but they might not be in three days."

When people arrive at the border, officials say they have to fill out a health declaration card, which includes saying if they have any symptoms. There are also telephone follow-ups and spot checks conducted. On Wednesday, Director-General of Health Bloomfield said just under 50 spot checks had been conducted by police with compliance being high.

The Director-General has previously also said that travellers will be turned around if their self-isolation rules are not up to standard. 

The self-isolation rules will be reviewed at the end of the month. Other countries, such as Australia, have also implemented similar measures.

Two foreigners who refused to self-isolate after arriving in New Zealand on Monday have been taken into custody and are liable for deportation.