New Zealand Minister for Civil Defence Peeni Henare has declared a state of emergency for seven days on Wednesday, March 25, following an increase of 50 coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in a single day. The declaration gives authorities emergency powers to limit the spread of the virus, including road closures and possible military controls. Authorities added that the police will be announcing the penalties for individuals that disobey self-isolation orders on March 25 or Thursday, March 26.
In addition, New Zealand's coronavirus (COVID-19) alert system will be raised to the highest level 4 from 23:59 (local time) on Wednesday, March 25. The alert level will be in place for at least four weeks, and the public are instructed to self-isolate and stay at home to prevent further spread of the virus. Educational institutions and mass gatherings will be suspended as a precautionary measure. All businesses will be closed, except for essential services including supermarkets, pharmacies, clinics, and lifeline utilities. Public transport will only be available to those working in these essential services, and for individuals traveling for medical reasons or to the supermarket. Domestic air travel will also be limited to individuals performing essential services. Meanwhile, an entry ban on all foreign nationals remains in place as of Friday, March 20.
As of Wednesday, March 25, authorities have confirmed 205 cases of COVID-19 nationwide. Individuals who display symptoms of coronavirus are being asked to phone the Healthline number (0800 358 5453) first before visiting a doctor or a medical center. Further international spread of the virus is expected in the coming days and weeks.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.