Panic-buyers swarmed supermarkets and traffic was thrown into chaos across Auckland after Jacinda Ardern announced sweeping new lockdown orders on Tuesday night.
The New Zealand prime minister implemented Stage 3 stay-at-home orders for Auckland for 72 hours from midday on Wednesday after the city reported four new cases of COVID-19.
The rest of the country was placed under Stage 2 restrictions – mandating social distancing and limits on the size of gatherings.
Queues snaked around the block and car parks were overflowing at grocery stores throughout the city – even as Ms Ardern begged Kiwis not to congregate at shopping centres.
Tuesday’s new cases are all linked to one family and include a 50-year-old man and a young child.
Contact tracers are working to identify the source of the virus after Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield confirmed the family had no connection to overseas travellers or the hotel quarantine program.
The nation had been the envy of the world for its handling of the COVID-19 crisis, with Monday marking 101 days without a single case of community transmission.
New Zealanders had been enjoying the return of their usual freedoms after an autumn lockdown proved effective in eliminating the deadly virus.
On Tuesday night, they were told those freedoms would be put on hold.
Countdown supermarkets experienced unprecedented demand after the lockdown announcements were made
A grocery store in Johnsonville in Wellington was flooded with panic buyers late on Tuesday, with some knocking over toilet paper in their rush to stock up
Following the announcement of a return to Stage 3 lockdown, motorists rushed to escape Auckland on Tuesday night.
Ms Ardern promised travellers in the city would be allowed to return home during lockdown, but motorways were congested as people attempted to make an early exit.
While some roads, including State Highway 1, were closed in sections for scheduled maintenance, there were plenty of cars on the roads heading out of Auckland or toward supermarkets, where frenzied buyers stocked up on supplies.
Opposition Leader Judith Collins on Tuesday night said there was ‘clearly a failure’ in the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
‘We have had essentially a lockdown of our borders since March, and the only people allowed in have apparently been in quarantine – clearly there is a failure,’ she told the NZHerald.
‘I am, like I’m sure the rest of the country, extremely disappointed that this has been allowed in through our borders.
‘We clearly have a failure that is disappointing – I am actually so disappointed that we are not in a situation that we have been told we were in.
‘I’m pinning it straight on the borders – clearly it’s come in through there; clearly it’s not organic to New Zealand.’
Ms Collins assured the public that the National Party would ‘be seeking an explanation and clear answers about the situation we now find ourselves in’.
Panic buyers flooded grocery stores throughout New Zealand on Tuesday night ahead of the lockdown on Wednesday
Queues wrapped around shopping centres and car parks were completely full following Ms Ardern’s announcement
‘This will come as a shock to all New Zealanders who believed what we had been told – that we had got on top of this virus. It is disappointing that it is once again in our community,’ Ms Collins said.
‘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. ‘
Ms Collins has suspended her election campaign in the wake of the latest update.
The federal election is scheduled to be held on September 19.
Ms Ardern would not comment on whether it would be suspended given the potential community transmission of COVID-19.
New Zealand’s Restaurant Association was quick to comment on the impending lockdown, describing the decision as a ‘devastating blow’ to the industry.
Auckland’s level three restrictions mean hospitality businesses will close to the public for everything but contactless delivery and takeaway orders.
Meanwhile, the rest of the nation will be subject to a level two lockdown that means the return of social distancing rules, and dining limits will be reintroduced.
‘This is of course a devastating blow for those businesses already struggling from the impact of the COVID-19 lock down and border closures,’ Restaurant Association CEO Marisa Bidois said on Sunday night.
‘We will be redistributing our guidelines for safe operations at levels two and three and are laser focused on how we can support the industry through these incredibly difficult times. With support from the dining public we can absolutely do this.
‘We are of course very disappointed.’
More than 1.6million people won’t be allowed to leave their homes for anything other than essential reasons after four new cases of community transmission were identified on Tuesday
A news alert is displayed on a mobile phone in Christchurch, New Zealand following the announcement of four new COVID-19 cases
Professor Shaun Hendy from the University of Auckland praised Ms Ardern’s instructions for residents to wear masks while out in the public.
Professor Hendy said while not everybody is able to wear a mask, those who choose to do so will be protecting the entire community.
Ms Ardern specifically encouraged people to wear masks to the supermarket, doubling down on her pleas to avoid overcrowding in stores.
But her advice fell on deaf ears as shops throughout Auckland and surrounding suburbs were inundated on Tuesday night.
Countdown Supermarkets issued a public plea for consumers to stick to their regular shopping behaviour while also confirming it had to close stores early in response to the mad rush.
‘Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that Auckland will move to Level 3 tomorrow at midday, we have closed our Auckland stores tonight, other stores remain open as usual,’ a statement released late on Tuesday read.
‘Over the next few hours, we’ll be working to bring our Alert Level 3 measures into place in Auckland, and Level 2 measures throughout the rest of the country.
‘This will include physical distancing in our stores, limits on customer numbers, limits on some products, queue control and extra cleaning and hygiene measures.’
New Zealanders received this text message on Tuesday evening, informing them of the latest restrictions
Pictured: Shoppers seen with trolleys full of groceries on Tuesday night following Jacinda Ardern’s announcement
Ms Ardern assured the public supermarkets would remain open and fully stocked during any lockdown, and urged people not to flock to stores.
Her plea fell on deaf ears, with about 50 people queued out the front of Countdown in Westgate, northwest Auckland, by about 10pm on Tuesday night.
The store normally closes about 11pm, but shut its doors at 10.30pm following the influx of people.
Footage taken at Countdown in New Lynn showed panicked residents had ripped the doors open and flooded inside, scrambling over the top of one another and ignoring all social distancing protocols.
Police were called as security tried to control the crowds, which included a woman with her baby who insisted she needed food for the child.
‘I counted over 200 people in the line, there are cars literally queuing up outside because there aren’t enough car parks,’ one of the shoppers in the queue told NZHerald on Tuesday night.
‘It was chaos,’ another said. ‘There was traffic blocking all of the roads leading to the supermarket, the parking lot was completely full and there were cars queued to get into the parking lot.
While some Kiwis denounced Ms Ardern’s lockdown, the overwhelming majority were supportive
A photograph showing the headlights of cars queued on a road following Ms Ardern’s announcement
Countdown at Manukau and Johnsonville in Wellington experienced similar crowds of shoppers hoping to stock up on essentials
‘There was already a queue snaking outside. I didn’t think I’d even be able to get a park, let alone get the shopping done before the store closed.’
The customer said it was pandemonium when he arrived around 9.50pm – while Ms Ardern was still holding her press conference.
Countdown at Manukau and Johnsonville in Wellington experienced similar crowds of shoppers.
Following the announcement, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called for calm.
‘I understand that people are probably feeling a little bit scared, a little angry and a little confused right now. None of us wanted to go back into a lockdown, but we always knew this was a very real possibility,’ he said.
‘I am urging Aucklanders to come together like we did last time to stamp out community transmission. Please remain calm, please do not panic buy and please follow the lockdown rules.’
He reminded the community that they had beaten COVID-19 once before, and said he had no doubt they would do it again.
The lockdown is only expected to last three days at the moment, but Ms Ardern could not rule out extending the measures should contact tracing over the next few days prove insufficient to stem the spread of the virus.
The popular PM will plunge Auckland back into a Stage 3 lockdown from Wednesday in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus as part of her ‘resurgence plan’
New Zealand records first cases of community transmission of COVID-19 for 102 days
* Four members of a south Auckland family have tested positive to COVID-19.
* The ‘index case’ is a person in their 50s who has been symptomatic for five days and has no overseas travel history.
* Six family members received a rapid test on Tuesday evening; three tests came back positive and three are negative.
* Health officials are moving to isolate and test contacts of the family, including two Auckland workplaces.
* Auckland returns to a ‘level three’ lockdown from noon on Wednesday until midnight on Friday. Aucklanders are being asked to stay home except for essential work or essential needs.
* The rest of New Zealand returns to ‘level two’ for the same timeframe, with caps on gatherings and the return of social distancing.
* These measures have been enacted to buy health officials time time to test and isolate contacts, and to locate the source of the outbreak.
* Every worker at NZ’s border regime and managed isolation facility will also be tested in the next few days.
Some Kiwis voiced their concerns on social media that New Zealand’s elimination strategy would be catastrophic.
‘Four cases only… No need to warrant a lockdown,’ one frustrated resident wrote online.
‘Four cases enough to shut down 1.6million people… welcome to the world of tyrants.’
Medics and authorities praised Ardern for her swift response and clear instructions.
Contact tracing is now underway among multiple workplaces across New Zealand linked to the cluster, and close contacts of the confirmed cases have been ordered to self isolate.
Ms Ardern is concerned about the origin of the outbreak, given the family have no links to overseas travellers or managed hotel isolation.
Queen Street in the Auckland CBD was deserted durung the last COVID-19 virus lockdown in March
The latest lockdown could ‘send chills down the backs of businesses,’ Infometrics economist Brad Olsen said after the announcement. Data released for the March 2020 quarter revealed GDP slumped by almost two per cent (pictured)
An Auckland man in his 50s tested positive to coronavirus twice on Tuesday, five days after he first developed symptoms, sparking fears he could have spread the virus throughout his community.
The man’s partner and preschool-aged child are also among the new confirmed cases.
‘We have not yet been able to determine the source of these cases, there is no known link to hotel quarantine,’ Ms Ardern said on Tuesday night.
‘One of the most important lessons we have learned from overseas is to go hard at this… in line with our precautionary approach, we will be asking Aucklanders to take swift lockdown.’
Ms Ardern revealed authorities are ‘expecting to see more cases’ linked to the cluster.
The new lockdown is part of the prime minister’s coronavirus ‘resurgence plan’, but could wreak havoc on the already struggling economy.
The Reserve Bank indicated back in May that just four weeks of Stage 4 lockdown had wiped $10billion from the economy.
Data released for the March 2020 quarter revealed the GDP slumped by almost two per cent.
The COVID-19 lockdown started just four days before the report was finalised, meaning the true scale of the economic impact won’t be felt until the June quarter report is released on September 17.
While the country’s GDP has taken a major hit, unemployment levels actually dropped during the pandemic. New Zealand’s jobless rate in the second quarter of 2020 fell to about four per cent, from 4.2 per cent in the previous reporting period
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern scheduled a last-minute press conference for about 9.15pm on Tuesday to announce the reintroduced lockdown
Early indications suggested the lockdown could wipe nine per cent from the nation’s GDP for 2020.
While the country’s GDP has taken a major hit, unemployment levels actually dropped during the pandemic.
New Zealand’s jobless rate in the second quarter of 2020 fell to about four per cent, from 4.2 per cent in the previous reporting period.
That figure was well below market expectations, which indicated the figure could be upwards of 5.8 per cent.
Some 111,000 Kiwis are currently unemployed, but there a fears another lockdown could cause that number to soar.
The latest restrictions has ‘sent chills down the backs of businesses,’ Infometrics economist Brad Olsen said after the announcement.
‘Initial Infometrics estimates are that 28 per cent of Auckland’s workforce [or 250,000 people] could be unable to work at level three,’ he revealed.
‘Our immediate estimates suggest that spending Auckland could be $60 million to $69m lower throughout the three days of level three announced.’
The short lockdown could knock 0.2 percentage points off the GDP for the September quarter alone, his colleague Gareth Kiernan said.
While Ms Ardern and her experts aimed for total elimination of the virus, some experts feared the economic cost wasn’t worth the potential gain.
Prior to the crisis, tourism was New Zealand’s biggest export industry, and contributed $16.2 billion annually – or 5.8 per cent of GDP.
The entire industry came to a screeching halt when Ms Ardern closed the borders to international travellers in March.
‘You are asked to stay home in your bubble unless you are an essential worker,’ she said of the latest lockdown.
All bars, restaurants and public services must close by midday on Wednesday, as gatherings of more than 10 are prohibited.
Schools will also close to all students other than children of essential workers.
‘If you are in Auckland, we ask that you wear a mask when accessing essential services,’ Ms Ardern added.
‘While this initial three day lockdown will primarily effect the Auckland region, I am asking our team of five million to stay alert as well. We have defeated this virus before and can do it again.’
Auckland will reenter a Stage 3 lockdown from midday Wednesday. Pictured: Police performing checks during the last lockdown
Passengers wear protective masks and gloves at Auckland International Airport following an initial outbreak in April
The rest of the nation will enter a three day level two lockdown.
Level two lockdown involves social distancing, mindful hand-washing regimes, staying home and seeking testing if unwell, and wearing a mask in areas where distancing isn’t possible.
Ms Ardern would not indicate whether the lockdown would be extended if contact tracing and widespread testing do not identify the source of the current outbreak.
‘If we are not able to identify the source, we should be able to identify whether we have wider geographic spread,’ NZ’s Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said.
‘We have been saying for some weeks that it was inevitable that New Zealand would get another case of community transmission.’
Authorities hope their swift action will help to manage the potential spread of the virus following the latest outbreak.
‘We’ve had 102 days, and it was very easy to feel like New Zealand was out of the woods,’ Ms Ardern said on Tuesday night.
‘No country has gone as far as we did to not have a resurgence. But because we were the only ones, we knew we had to have a plan.
‘My request is to not be dispirited or disheartened… This is something we have prepared for.’
New Zealand first went into level four lockdown on March 25, acting swiftly once the threat of COVID-19 was present.
By April 27, the virus appeared somewhat under control and the lockdown was eased to level three.
May 13 signalled the beginning of level two lockdown while most restrictions were entirely eased on June 9.
Ms Ardern said she has no doubt New Zealand will defeat the virus for a second time.
The cases bring into question New Zealand’s election day scheduled for September 19.
New Zealand First, the party of Deputy PM Winston Peters, suspended its campaign in the wake of the announcement.
Auckland motorways are seen empty of traffic as the initial COVID-19 lockdown took effect. Auckland will re-enter Stage 3 lockdown
New Zealand’s new lockdown: What it means for you
Residents in Auckland:
Auckland will enter a Level 3 lockdown for three days starting from midday Wednesday August 12.
Residents within New Zealand’s largest city will be given stay-at-home orders and must not leave their houses for any non-essential purposes during the three-day window.
All non-essential businesses must close by noon, while takeaway services will be able to continue operating under level 3.
Schools have been ordered to close for all students aside from children of essential workers.
Any employee who is not in an ‘essential’ field must also stay at home.
Non-residents will not be able to enter the city.
Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned.
All residents should wear masks when conducting essential business outside of their homes.
Residents in the rest of New Zealand:
The rest of New Zealand will move into Stage 2 restrictions for the same time frame as Auckland’s lockdown.
These directives are more designed to reduce the risk to the public.
People can continue to go to work or school, but should maintain social distancing and wear masks when social distancing is not possible.
Businesses can remain open to the public, but will have customer limits and must enforce social distancing.
Residents are urged to stay at home and seek testing if they feel unwell.