NZ Election 2020: Political parties suspend campaigns after new COVID-19 outbreak

"We will focus as a team on helping New Zealand through this time."
"We will focus as a team on helping New Zealand through this time." Photo credit: Getty.

Political parties have suspended their election campaigns after an outbreak of community COVID-19 transmission hit Auckland.

From midday Wednesday Auckland is entering COVID-19 alert level 3 for three days, while the rest of New Zealand is entering level 2. It comes after four cases of the virus were found in Auckland's community on Tuesday.

Due to the disruption, political parties are already starting to push pause on their campaigns.

"Following the announcement tonight we have contacted all Labour candidates to advise them the campaign across the country is suspended for the time being," Labour campaign manager and MP Megan Woods wrote on Twitter.

"We will focus as a team on helping New Zealand through this time."

NZ First leader Winston Peters posted news of the temporary halt to his Twitter account.

"Regrettably in these circumstances NZF's campaign has been temporarily suspended as of 9pm this evening," he wrote.

National was set to formally launch its campaign on Sunday - it's not clear if the outbreak will affect this.

Leader Judith Collins said in a statement on Tuesday that campaign events on Wednesday wouldn't go ahead.

"A lot of work will need to be done over the coming days to figure out exactly what this latest case of community transmission will mean for the country, and I urge all New Zealanders to follow the hygiene protocols that saw us do such a great job of dealing with the first wave of COVID-19.

"New Zealanders can be assured that National will be seeking an explanation and clear answers about the situation we now find ourselves in."

The Greens said they had suspended "in person campaigning and will await further health advice".

What will happen to the election?

Up until August 16, Ardern can choose to delay the election until November if alert levels change significantly and affect election preparations.

After this, the Electoral Commission says it would need to assess how many people were affected and whether it could provide voting services to them another way.

If the outbreak is bad enough, the Chief Electoral Officer has the emergency power to delay election day voting for up to seven days at a time.

"Before doing this, she would need to consult with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition and other people or organisations with relevant information," a spokesperson told Newshub.