Coronavirus: Winston Peters claims China didn't want NZ to go into lockdown

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters. Photo credit: Getty

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says China didn't want New Zealand to go into lockdown in an interview on Wednesday.

In late March as cases in New Zealand topped 100, the Government made the urgent decision to move the country into alert level 3, then to alert level 4 after 48 hours.

Deputy Prime Minister Peters revealed when he spoke to China on the emerging pandemic, they didn't think the lockdown was necessary.

“They didn't want us to go into lockdown...and I suppose they wanted a discussion about that," Peters told Stuff’s Coronavirus NZ podcast.

"We had a long discussion, but in the end said: look, you'll understand we've heard what you've got to say; that we've got to protect our own people, and as fast as we can; and it ended up with, ‘Well, I hope I see you one day,’ sort of thing...

"Without speaking out of turn, they wanted a discussion as to why we were doing it, because they thought it was an overreaction."

He said the decision to implement New Zealand's alert level 4 was difficult but resulted in the country "dodging a bullet".

"It was very hard because you are trying to calculate what you are doing is the appropriate and proper and adequate measure that needs to be taken and that you haven't overraked the problem so to speak and you haven't underestimated. 

"And you all know you are going to be judged by history and the later post mortems and the reviews go on as to whether we were right or wrong. 

"So we were in a very, very difficult situation, trying to come to grips with imperfect information and information which wasn't being given to us at the speed it should have been because the health of the WHO said it wasn't a pandemic."

But he says the coalition partners agreed the "go hard, go early" approach was needed to stop the spread of the virus in New Zealand.

"Those are agonising moments because you're concerned at the level and speed at which you are going to get on top of the malignant health crisis that your people are going to face, whilst bearing in mind this is going to have terrible economic ramifications from which we will have to take a long time to recover. So you realise you've got all these agonising considerations, but that's what you've been sent down here for."

New Zealand has now had five days with no new cases of coronavirus, the last three were in a row. 

The current total is 1497 and the Ministry of Health will announce Friday's new cases at 1pm.