16 Apr 2020

Covid-19 alert level three questions, answered by the Police Minister

From Checkpoint, 5:41 pm on 16 April 2020

Police Minister Stuart Nash discusses the details of what Covid-19 alert level 3 will look like when New Zealand moves out of the alert level 4 lockdown.

"There's about 500,000 Kiwis working at the moment, this will take it up to about a million," Police Minister Stuart Nash told Checkpoint

"We've also moved… from a business being essential to being safe."

What is the status of the 'bubble' under alert level 3? 

"What we're basically saying is we still want to keep contact as minimal as possible. So you're allowed to invite family or a caregiver, and that's about it.

"If people think they're going to go back to pre-Covid levels where they're having beers with their mates, they're not. That is a way off."

What about big families? Can they be part of a bigger bubble?

"Depending on where they live and how old," Nash said. "But no, I would say it's your parents. For me, it's my two older children who I haven't seen apart from over the fence or on FaceTime. 

"Kiwis have done really well to keep Covid down to where it's at, at the moment. The game is elimination. And we're still chasing that incredibly hard, so we're asking people to use their common sense.

"Let's not undo all the really hard work we've done by being silly buggers and breaching this."

If you are introducing new people into your bubble what can you do? Hug, shake hands, a kiss? 

"If it's your mother you can probably give her a hug, if it's your son, your daughter, you can probably give them a hug as well, but again we want to reduce human contact as much as we possibly can.

"My mother has been in isolation and locked down like everyone else. I haven't been near her, I've been calling her and keeping in touch, but for a lot of elderly people human contact is really important."

How will schools work practically with some students at school and some online?

"Teachers are going to have to work out the best way to make it work.

"They're going to try and engage in social distancing in the classroom, so you're not going to get classes of 30 kids all sitting beside each other."

The number of students in each classroom will be up to the school and the classroom to determine, Nash said. 

"If you can't keep your kids at home, because you've got to go out and work, then we are saying send your kid to school. But if you can work from home, we're asking that you do work from home and if you can keep your children home-schooled just until we get over this then that's what we're asking people to do."

Are schools essentially being used as childcare facilities? 

"No, not at all because we're what we are expecting at the moment is for children to still be learning when they're at home, and they will certainly be learning when they're at school. The last thing we need is for young men and women and children to be missing out on education. It's the reason why Chris Hipkins has introduced all these measures around education. It is not a babysitting service. This is not a holiday for kids. We do expect them to be learning.

"We're moving back to a situation which is slightly more normal than level 4 course, but it's nowhere close to pre-Covid level."

Will garden centres be allowed to open under alert level 3?

Nash said if click and collect, or contactless options are available, they can be open. 

"We will not be getting back to a stage where people pull up in the garden centre carpark, go wandering through the aisles, pick up their plants and go to a checkout - that sort of system, we're way away from that. 

"Please don't get the impression that we're going back to pre-Covid ways."

Can people move house during level three?

"Yes, they can."

Under level three, will pregnant women be able to take a support person with them to hospital or birthcare when they deliver their baby? 

"A very good friend of mine, his wife, delivered her baby to 2:42am this morning, congratulations to Rob! He was there for the delivery, but had to leave soon after. But I can't argue whether the husband, partner will be able to stay as long as they did pre-Covid."

Can you go to your bach if you live in the same region? 

"No, I own a bach in Mahia which is within my electorate and within the Hawke's Bay region. No you're not allowed to go to your bach, stick at home, stick within your slightly enlarged bubble… But let's not undo all the really great work that we've done so far. 

"There'll be plenty of time to go to your bach after this, but let's just be safe for the meantime."

If mountain biking and tramping is okay under alert level 3, why can't we hunt?

"What we've said you can do is you can go surfing, you can go fishing as long as you're fishing from the shore, not in a boat. I'm assuming if you're going hunting, you've got to jump in a car and drive.

"We want to limit travel to only essential travel. So you're going to and from work, you're going to the hospital if you need to, you're going to and from the supermarket, but [as for] non-essential travel, again, we want to limit [that]."

How far is okay to drive to the beach? 

"We want people to use their common sense, and we're heading into winter… I wouldn't expect you to jump in a car and drive for half an hour to get to the beach. I would think that'd be non-essential travel and therefore unnecessary, therefore outside the rules. 

"My feeling is stick to the level 4 restrictions really at the moment. If you can't walk to the beach, then don't go to the beach. We want to limit non-essential travel.

"There's going to be a lot more cars on the road, as people head to work, drop the kids off at the school or go and collect stuff that they've bought through click and collect.

"What we want to do is ensure that people don't have contact with those they don't need to."

If you got stuck somewhere else during lockdown in a city that you don't normally live in and you would like to get back to your actual home, can you go under level 3?

Nash said he did not have an absolute answer to that but he cannot see why not. 

It is not yet known if the Cook Strait ferries will be available, for example. 

"Let's keep the basic principle… Always limit the amount of people you're in contact with and only through that way will we be able to eliminate Covid from our country." 

As Police Minister, Nash acknowledged police are not observing physical distancing rules. 

"It's very difficult… close to impossible, but… these are essential workers, and police hierarchy has put a list of requirements in place to keep their workers safe. But we've got men and women out there who are still dealing with ratbags in the worst possible circumstances, so I take my hat off to them."