Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern urges Kiwis not to 'snatch our potential victory' on COVID-19 by flouting rules

The Prime Minister is urging Kiwis not to do anything that "snatches our potential victory" on COVID-19 by breaking the rules, but the Opposition leader thinks we should come out of alert level 3 immediately. 

The Ministry of Health reported no new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday for the second day in a row, and while Jacinda Ardern says it's something we can be "undeniably proud of", she wants Kiwis to keep to the rules. 

"As we make our way this week and head toward the level 3 review next week, my message remains: don't do anything that snatches our potential victory at this point," Ardern said at her daily press conference. 

"One case at one gathering has led to multiple clusters and the virus getting away on us [and this] can still happen, so my message remains the same for the remainder of the week: stay home, stay in your 'bubble' [and] maintain physical distancing."

She asked New Zealanders to "double down this week" to maintain the good run of numbers.

"I'm also mindful that I have seen positive numbers in other places before and it's not always sustained, so we do need to still be cautious."

Her message was in stark contrast to Opposition leader Simon Bridges who delivered a speech to Business New Zealand on Tuesday laying out how National would respond to COVID-19. 

Bridges said having gone hard in its response to the virus by locking down the country the Government has retained a "very conservative approach to downgrading the levels of response". 

He said going hard and going early to respond to the virus made sense to try and flatten the curve, but now that the cases numbers have dropped off, he doesn't understand why such strict measures are still in place. 

He said alert level 3 is "harder than Australia's was in the height of the crisis" and that it's costing livelihoods and wellbeing. The Opposition has highlighted how retail and manufacturing continued in Australia while New Zealand was in complete lockdown. 

Both Australia and New Zealand's approaches to tackling the virus have been praised across the globe, with The New York Times describing the methods as "non-political" and "restoring trust in democracy". 

But that's not to say the economic situation in New Zealand isn't worrying. 

ASB Bank noted on Friday that business confidence "plunged to unprecedented lows" in April, and the bank now expects a 7 percent contraction in the economy this year, with unemployment expected to reach 9.3 percent - higher than during the global financial crisis.

The Ministry of Social Development says a further 6000 people went on the benefit last week, bringing the total increase of Kiwis receiving it to around 28,000 in just four weeks. 

"Kiwis visit supermarkets in their millions with no evidence of significant community spread of COVID-19, while small businesses like butchers and greengrocers have been forced to stay shut. There is no logic in that," Bridges said. 

"As quickly as New Zealand flattened the curve, the Government must lift the restrictions that are flattening the economy."

But the Prime Minister is weary about ending alert level 3 early because she doesn't want the country "yo-yoing" between alert levels, which she says would be even more devastating to the economy. 

The Government will lay out further details of the alert level 2 guidelines on Thursday and next Monday Cabinet will decide if the nation is ready to shift into alert level 2. 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said having zero new cases of COVID-19 to report for a second day in a row is "very encouraging" and he said all Kiwis should be proud of their efforts over the last few weeks. 

But he echoed the Prime Minister that everyone needs to stay the course. 

"We must stick to the plan. The worst thing we could do now is celebrate success early before the full-time whistle blows and jeopardise the gains we have made."

It appears Kiwis have been struggling to follow the alert level 3 rules. There have been 593 breaches so far, 79 in the 24 hours covering Saturday night, and 154 level 3 prosecutions.

Bridges said businesses are going to face a prolonged downturn in revenue due to the strict rules and, in order to stay afloat, will be forced to let some workers go.

"We can't afford to wait hopefully for the Government to slowly grant us our freedoms back; every week the Government should justify what is absolutely necessary to retain its restrictions."

The Prime Minister says the good results we've had with COVID-19 is a result of the alert level 4 lockdown and that the results of alert level 3 are yet to show.