The huge fine Kiwis face for breaching mass gathering rules during coronavirus pandemic

Kiwis could face a $4000 fine or six months in prison for breaching the Government's new rules limiting mass gatherings to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

The penalties would be given to anyone who "does anything forbidden by a medical officer of health or any person authorised by a medical officer" under section 72 of the Health Act 1956. 

The legislation also states that anyone who refuses to comply with, or delays complying with, the direction given by a medical officer of health, could be penalised. 

Health Minister David Clark announced on Thursday that 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 followed 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. 

Dr Clark, announcing the new measures at the Beehive on Thursday, said the latest 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 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."

He said workplaces should be practising physical distancing. 

"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."

You can read more about the Government's "special powers" during a pandemic here