COVID-19: Government bans gatherings of 100 people or more amid coronavirus pandemic

Indoor gatherings of 100 people or more have been banned by the Government amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has so far infected 28 Kiwis, according to health officials. 

It follows the Government's announcement on Monday that gatherings of 500 people or more - both indoor and outdoor - were banned, to help prevent the COVID-19 virus spreading. 

Health Minister David Clark, announcing the new measures at the Beehive on Thursday, said the ban will not apply to workplaces, supermarkets, schools and universities or public transport.

"Protecting the health of New Zealanders is our number one priority, and that means we need to reduce the risks associated with large gatherings," Dr Clark said. 

"We know this has specific implications for the hospitality sector. We will work with the sector over the next 24-36 hours to develop guidance."

Dr Clark said despite the Ministry of Health producing guidance to help people understand the new rules about gatherings, but he said if in doubt, cancel.

"Making sure we put in place social distancing rules is one of the most important things we can do to protect the public," he said. 

"Large gatherings and events are a high risk environment for the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19, because people often behave in ways that facilitate transmission at these events."

Dr Clark said the risk is that people at gatherings share food or drinks, sit or stand very close together for long periods of time and may cough or breathe on each other.

"Just because you don't have 500 or 100 people doesn't mean you can ignore appropriate hygiene measures," he said.

"For any gathering or event you need to ensure people can stay further than one metre apart, and have the ability to wash and dry their hands thoroughly."

Dr Clark said regardless of the size of a gathering, if someone is unwell, they should not attend.

"Anyone who has returned from overseas and needs to be in self-isolation must also stay away from gatherings. There shouldn't be any grey area around this - if you're meant to be in self-isolation, you don't go to any gathering or event."

He said workplaces should be practising physical distancing, with people no closer than one metre.

"In workplaces where physical distancing isn't possible, workplaces should look at other measures which can be used to protect staff, such as working from home."