Coronavirus: New Zealanders asked to record daily movements to help with contact tracing

New Zealanders are being asked to keep a daily record of their movements and who they've been with to help with contract tracing once the country moves to alert level 3.

The rules under alert level 3 allow slightly more movement than what is currently allowed during level 4. For example, people's bubbles can be expanded to include close family members, caregivers or those who are isolated, but the key to containment is to keep the people exclusive.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the new habit of people documenting where they've been and who they've seen will be "incredibly helpful" if they ever need to help with contact tracing.

"I would ask New Zealanders to think about doing that. Just keeping a quick note of where you've been and who you've been with will not only help them but will help us," she said during a press conference on Sunday.

"If you imagine even asking someone six days later to recount every movement over a period of time, it's an incredibly hard task. Even it would be at alert level 3."

She says the better records that people keep during level 3, the sooner the country will move down alert levels and life will "feel more normal".

A decision on whether New Zealand will move out of level 4 to level 3 will be announced on Monday afternoon.

Alert level 4 was set for a preliminary four-week period beginning at 11:59pm on March 25. If it's announced the lockdown will be lifted, New Zealand will move to level 3 just before midnight on Wednesday, Ardern said.

"No matter the outcome of Cabinet's deliberations tomorrow, it is important to remember that this is going to be a long-term project for us all," she said.

"Our move to alert level 3, whenever it comes, is not a return to pre-COVID-19 life for any of us. What eventually changes at alert level 3 is that more of the economy is able to come back online but our social lives, sadly, will not. If we move too quickly in that area, we undo the good work we have done collectively over some very long days."

More businesses will be able to operate under level 3, including hospitality stores. But they can only reopen if they offer delivery, drive-thru or contactless pre-ordered pick-ups. There can be no face-to-face transactions, meaning customers can't enter stores. Additionally, all retail stores and malls must stay shut but click-and-collect and online shopping can begin.

Several components and different criteria will be considered by Cabinet when determining if the alert levels will change. These include:

  • that Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield is satisfied there is sufficient data from a range of sources, including testing and surveillance, and that public health experts, statisticians and modellers can have reasonable certainty that undetected community transmission is unlikely
  • sufficient, rigorous and rapid case identification and contact tracing with surge capacity available in the case of an outbreak
  • robust self-isolation, quarantine and border measures that are adhered to
  • capacity in the health system more generally, including the workforce, ICU capacity, plus the availability of PPE for those who need it.