12 May 2020

Covid-19: Jacinda Ardern says group restrictions will be reviewed, alert levels could change if needed

8:58 am on 12 May 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that even while the country will gradually ease into alert level 2, there are protocols in place if the alert level needs to go back up.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the Covid-19 media conference on 7 May, 2020.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Pool / NZME

Ardern told Morning Report Cabinet worked on a consensus basis and decided to move to alert level 2 after seven weeks.

She said the Ministry of Health suggested deferring opening bars for two weeks, but Cabinet rejected it and moved to reopen after a week.

Responding to the restriction on only 10 people in a group at a time, Ardern said it would help open up the economy while limiting the risk.

"Tangi, funerals, that has been the hardest for us, that's the area where we have felt the grief that people feel ... it's devastating."

She pointed to the clusters in New Zealand that were often related to weddings, bars and social events, so they will face continuing restrictions.

"In two weeks, if the numbers continue to look good, we'll look to increase that number considerably."

But if an outbreak did occur, she said alert levels could change.

"My goal is not to go back but to keep moving forward."

She said research evidence suggested staying in a crowded setting for longer than two hours could increase the risk of a person catching the virus.

As for experts calling for masks to be used on public transport, Ardern said the Ministry of Health had reviewed all the evidence and research.

It concluded certain areas like frontline health staff, and those working in jobs with no way to physically distance should use masks.

"For the general public if you don't wear them properly you might be in a position of more harm than good," she said citing masks had to be changed regularly.

Defending document dump

On Friday afternoon last week, the government released some 300 documents online, leaving questions about its choice of timing.

"We wanted to put out information as quickly as possible, while we're still even responding to Covid, so we can be transparent about the decisions being made."

"We could do it in the future on a morning," she said.

"Putting out these 300 documents was all in the name of being open about this period with Covid."

Health Minister David Clark

Health Minister David Clark. Photo: RNZ/Dom Thomas

It was revealed that the prime minister's office had directed all ministers not to give interviews on a Covid-19 document dump, saying there is "no real need to defend" themselves.

A leaked email, sent to Beehive staff, directed them to issue only "brief written statements" in response to media queries about the documents.

She told Morning Report it wasn't unusual for ministers to respond to media questions in writing and many ministers, like Health Minister David Clark did, in fact, speak about the documents.

Clark, who was demoted for breaching level 4 lockdown rules, would still be safe in his job the prime minister confirmed.

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