25 Mar 2020

Covid-19: Parliament sits to pass legislation to combat coronavirus

3:01 pm on 25 March 2020

A small number of MPs will return to Parliament today to debate and pass much-needed legislation as the country prepares for a nationwide lockdown tonight.

Watch Parliament live here:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern issued an epidemic notice under section 5 of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006 on Monday when she announced the country was moving to alert level 3 immediately and alert level 4 at 11.59pm tonight.

The epidemic notice begins tonight and will last for three months unless the government chooses to lift it earlier.

Cross-party MPs are speaking on the epidemic notice in Parliament now today.

Ardern, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Education Minister Chris Hipkins, Justice Minister Andrew Little and other Wellington-based MPs are attending for the government and National Party leader Simon Bridges and some of his colleagues represent the Opposition.

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

The epidemic notice allows the government to respond to the rapidly-evolving Covid-19 epidemic in New Zealand and enables a number of special powers to be used.

It includes extending visas for people currently in the country on temporary visas that will expire between 1 April and the end of the epidemic notice.

Those on temporary visas (work, student, interim and limited) that expire before 1 April, who are unable to leave the country, must apply online for a new interim visa.

A skeleton Parliament in the house as it passes legislation to combat Covid-19.

A skeleton Parliament in the house as it passes legislation to combat Covid-19. Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Travellers with a temporary visa due to expire between 1 April and 9 July will have their visas extended to late September.

The need for the epidemic notice is because Ardern has declared the effects of the Covid-19 outbreak are "likely to disrupt or continue to disrupt essential governmental and business activity in New Zealand significantly''.

The notice is one way to activate the special powers given to medical officers under the Health Act during this period.

It allows certain judges to modify rules of court as necessary over the notice period to ensure justice is preserved.

It also impacts the Electoral Act and gives power to the Chief Electoral Officer to adjourn voting at polling places and use alternative voting processes.

Other emergency legislation will also be debated and passed this afternoon covering off urgent changes in areas of tax, welfare and immigration. The House is expected to rise at 6pm and will then adjourn for five weeks.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

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