19 Mar 2020

Coronavirus: 'New Zealanders must prepare, but do not panic' - Prime Minister

1:15 pm on 19 March 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told New Zealanders they must prepare for the full effects of the Covid-19 coronavirus, but must not panic, especially over rumours and misinformation.

PM Jacinda Ardern addressing media about Covid-19 this afternoon.

PM Jacinda Ardern addressing media about Covid-19 this afternoon. Photo: RNZ

Ardern is in Rotorua, where she is currently giving an update on the government's response to the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Ardern said she was aware there were a lot of rumours and misinformation circulating on social media, but authorities could be trusted to continue to share what they knew, as it happened.

"The last thing we want is for that anxiety to be based on misinformation."

She said New Zealanders needed to take social distancing "really seriously".

"We are in a very heightened state as a nation, and so is the world."

Ardern said each business had their own plan, and their own thinking about what they could do about keeping staff employed, and how they could support each other.

She said the government was looking at how they could support that.

If there were wider outbreaks, then the strategy around schools will be reassessed, Ardern said.

"Right now because of what we know about the way this transmits, we can make really sound evidence-based decisions but we have always been willing to change those decisions if we need to escalate."

Ardern said they would take deportation measures if people were not going by the rules put in place to self-isolate for international arrivals.

Ardern reiterated MFAT's message that asked New Zealanders to assess their situation and travel back while commercial options were open.

As Covid-19 spreads around the world, it can be daunting keeping up with the information. For RNZ, our responsibility is to give you verified, up to the minute, trustworthy information to help you make decisions about your lives and your health. We'll also be asking questions of officials and decision makers about how they're responding to the virus. Our aim is to keep you informed.

The Prime Minister is in Rotorua with Finance Minister Grant Robertson to meet with about 30 representatives from local businesses across the tourism, hospitality and forestry sectors as well as from economic development agencies, the council, iwi and council of trade unions.

Ardern is expected to announce greater restrictions on gatherings today, having banned groups of more than 500 on Monday.

Yesterday, she said an announcement on mass gatherings would be made in the next 24 hours. She has already indicated events such as funerals and weddings will be affected as the situation escalates.

Australia recently announced a ban on events with more than 100 people.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand increased by eight to 28 today.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield is set to give the Ministry's daily Covid-19 update this afternoon.

He told RNZ's Morning Report the ministry would expect to see more cases coming from overseas, and was setting up a centre to trace close contacts of those confirmed to have the virus.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

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