Jacinda Ardern encourages calling out COVID-19 rule-breakers, but with 'kindness'

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is encouraging calling out COVID-19 rule-breakers, but with "kindness", after multiple breaches led to Auckland's fourth lockdown. 

Auckland was shifted to alert level 3 on Sunday for seven days after revelations a 21-year-old with COVID-19 ignored self-isolation rules by visiting several populated places, including a gym, while he was symptomatic. 

It's also been revealed that his mother - who tested positive at the weekend - went for a walk with the mother of an infected household during the last level 3 lockdown. The meet-up wasn't disclosed to contact tracers. 

"With that first household, it was a classmate and then family members, and it was one of the family members who then tested positive. They were interviewed but did not disclose the contact with this follow up family," Ardern said on Monday. 

Ardern is now urging the public to call out their peers for breaking the rules. 

"Our plan is for short and sharp restrictions in order to break the chain of transmission but rule-breaking can prolong that plan," Ardern said at her post-Cabinet press conference. 

"That is why I'm asking everyone - now more than ever - to continue to support and back one another. If that means calling a family member or work colleague out for not following the rules, then we should do that. 

"Do it with kindness, but do it."

Ardern said families and communities "need help" to "do the right thing", which could mean offering someone a mask on a bus if they're not wearing one. It could also mean telling a family member to stay home if they should be isolating. 

"I'm not asking people to do anything they're uncomfortable with, but I think we should all encourage one another to follow the rules. Family members will know if family members are meant to be isolating so encourage them to do that, make sure they do that."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Ardern said the rules have been broken before. 

"This is not the first time we as a nation have faced this issue. In fact, unfortunately, every time we've had community outbreaks - back in March and April last year and again in August last year - we have had breaches and we have recovered from them."

Ardern said even with the full understanding of human fallibility, it is "not appropriate and not OK for members of the team of 5 million to let the rest of us down" - but prosecution lies with police, not politicians. 

"It's always been my view that New Zealand's success in beating this virus has been based on high rates of compliance and low rates of tolerance for rule-breaking, because we all understand what is required of us," she said.

"I think this is because we appreciate that this virus can mean life or death. It is a virus that kills."

The Ministry of Health reported no new community cases on Monday, but the 21-year-old has left a wide trail, with 21 close contacts at Manukau Institute of Technology and 154 casual plus contacts at City Fitness in Hunters Plaza. 

Last week Ardern reminded New Zealanders about "repercussions" after a confirmed case of COVID-19 - a family member of a positive case - had gone to work at KFC when they should have been self-isolating at home. 

Seven of their 11 close plus contacts have returned negative tests so far. All other test results received so far have come back negative.

The KFC worker's infected sibling also went to work at Kmart. A total of 33 staff members were identified as close plus contacts and all have tested negative. There were 1847 people identified at the store during times of interest, and 1794 have returned negative tests so far. 

Ardern gave a reminder that financial support is available to employers if their staff need to stay home and self-isolate, in the forms of the resurgence support payment, the leave support scheme, the short-term absence payment, and the wage subsidy. 

You can read more about them here