Coronavirus: Government extends New Zealand's state of national emergency during COVID-19 crisis

The Government has extended New Zealand's state of national emergency for a further seven days as the country's COVID-19 case total climbs to 1160.

The announcement was made via the Civil Defence National Emergency Management Agency's Twitter on Tuesday.

"The state of national emergency to support the COVID-19 response will be extended a second time, for a further seven days," the agency said. "This is an extension to the state of national emergency only and does not change the Alert Level 4 lockdown."

In a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare said the extension has been declared "to support the COVID-19 response".

"On the advice of the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management and after consultation with the Prime Minister, I consider the State of National Emergency should remain in place to support the COVID-19 response," Henare said.

"The powers activated by the state of national emergency enable Civil Defence emergency management professionals to carry out critical work during this time, including managing roads, traffic and public places [and] providing first aid, food, shelter and accommodation.

"Use of these powers have included the requisitioning of a carpark so it can be used as a community-based assessment centre, and to support NZ Police to prevent people from doing non-essential activities."

The Government first declared a state of national emergency in response to the COVID-19 crisis on March 25. Although it lasts for just seven days, it can be extended as many times as the Government deems necessary. The declaration provides authorities with increased power to be used "when necessary".

Henare thanked the New Zealanders working to support the COVID-19 response.

"As I mentioned last week, now is the time for us to remain at home and be strong together as a nation - kia kaha Aotearoa," he said.

State of national emergency vs Alert Levels

The COVID-19 Alert Level system is a separate entity to the declaration or extension of the state of national emergency.

The Alert Levels specify the range of measures the Government is taking against New Zealand's COVID-19 outbreak. A state of national emergency provides the people managing the COVID-19 response access to powers they would not normally have, but might now require to implement and enforce these measures. 

Henare and the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management Sarah Stuart-Black declared the state of emergency under the Civil Defence Emergency Act 2002. 

"The state of national emergency has been declared because of unprecedented nature of this global pandemic and to ensure the Government has the powers it needs to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce its impact," Stuart-Black said at the time. 

The declaration allows Stuart-Black to direct and coordinate personnel, material and other resources to ensure they can be made available during the crisis.

"It also provides access to powers that would not normally be available, but would be needed to support the delivery and timely response to COVID-19," she said. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern issued an epidemic notice in late March, which will remain valid for three months with ongoing review. The notice enables the use of numerous 'special powers' in legislation to combat the virus.

The powers under New Zealand's emergency legislation did not require new Bills to be passed. The existence of several statutes that make up the country's legislative framework were already in place and were simply enacted.

Each week, Stuart-Black will provide Henare with advice on whether the state of national emergency should be extended. The decision takes into account the current Alert Level, which has remained at Level 4 since 11:59pm, March 25. 

As of Tuesday, 1160 people have contracted COVID-19 in New Zealand. There has been one virus-related death, a West Coast woman in her 70s who was initially diagnosed with influenza, complicated by an underlying health condition.